Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trump under pressure to reverse course on Russia

Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump found himself isolated and under pressure to reverse course Tuesday after publicly challenging the US intelligence conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election during his face-to-face with Vladimir Putin.

At his inaugural summit with the Russian president in Finland, Trump appeared to accept at face value the strongman's denial that Moscow interfered in a bid to undermine his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton -- a stance that triggered bipartisan outrage at home.

Back in Washington, Trump sounded a defensive note, insisting his meeting with Putin had been "even better" than his one last week with traditional allies NATO -- a testy gathering seen as having badly strained trans-Atlantic ties.

But the US president has found precious little support for his failure to confront Putin, and faced calls even from allies to change tack.

"He has to reverse course immediately and he's gotta get out there as soon as possible before the concrete starts to set on this," former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN.

"Loyalty right now requires you to tell the truth and sit with him and explain to him the optics of the situation, why the optics are bad, the strategy in terms of trying to get along with Vladimir Putin and deploying a strategy of going against the intelligence agency is very bad," Scaramucci said.

Former House speaker Gingrich and longtime Trump ally Newt Gingrich put it yet more bluntly.

"President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin," he tweeted as Trump headed home from Helsinki. "It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected -- immediately.

Trump's performance at the summit has even come under fire from the hosts at Fox News, usually a reliable defender of the president.

"No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus," Fox anchor and Fox & Friends co-host Abby Huntsman wrote on Twitter.

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