Prior to a meeting and press conference by the presidents of the United States and Russia, numerous American news outlets were providing news and analysis from Helsinki, Finland.
Statements by President Donald Trump after that meeting were panned by many Americans on both sides of the aisle as too dismissive of Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Shortly before Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down for their two-hour private conversation, CNN’s Chris Cuomo said the reaction to that issue would define Monday’s meeting.
“The big, ugly white elephant in the room will be the U.S. election hacking,” he said from his station in Finland.
Cuomo went on to suggest some in the media are being too delicate in discussing the issue, promising to refrain from using one term he believes does not accurately describe the scandal.
“We’ve been calling it meddling, but I’m trying to stay away from the word because it’s just way too mild,” he said. “This is an act of war.”
The “Cuomo Prime Time” host went on to state his belief that Trump would be at a disadvantage in attempting to hold Putin’s feet to the fire in the wake of 12 recent indictments of Russian operatives believed to have interfered in the U.S. election.
Cuomo wondered how Trump could “raise the act of war of the hacking and different attacks during the U.S. election when Vladimir Putin knows damn well that President Trump doesn’t really believe the truth and doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in the event itself.”
As the day’s events played out, Trump did in fact earn widespread opprobrium — even from some in his own party — for discounting U.S. intelligence information in favor of Putin’s claim that Russia was not involved.
Multiple Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, responded to Trump’s remarks by reiterating the American position that Russia is not an ally.
Others in the GOP took harsher stances, describing the president’s position with terms like “shameful” and “disgraceful.”
Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.
This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves. (1/3)
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 16, 2018
Cuomo introduced the potentially fateful meeting by suggesting that Putin would be the winner regardless of its outcome.
“It’s a win for Putin the moment he landed safely on the ground because he’s been given legitimacy by the U.S. president,” he said. “Literally the world is waiting on him to get here.
The host went on to repeat his belief that the mere existence of Monday’s meeting would result in a propaganda victory for the Russian leader.
“But the easy win for Putin is this happening at all,” Cuomo said. “He’s been given legitimacy on the world stage. End of story.”
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