HELSINKI — President Donald Trump says he sees no reason why Russia would interfere in the 2016 election, but leaders from both parties have come out against what the president said and reiterated U.S. intelligence communities’ findings that Russia did interfere in the election.
Trump resisted when asked Monday to condemn Russian meddling in the election. Instead, he complained about a Democratic National Committee computer server and emails belonging to Hillary Clinton, the Democrat he defeated to win the presidency.
At a joint appearance in Finland with Vladimir Putin, Trump repeated the Russian leader’s denials about involvement in the election.
Trump said of Putin: “He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump commented after holding hours of private talks with Putin.
Back in the U.S., House Speaker Paul Ryan said there’s “no question” that Russia interfered in the presidential election and continues to try undermine democracy in the United States and around the world.
The Wisconsin Republican says the U.S. intelligence community and the House Intelligence Committee agree that Russia interfered in the election.
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan said, adding that Russia “remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals” and the “United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
During the joint appearance, Putin said that Moscow and Washington could jointly conduct criminal investigations into Russian intelligence officials accused of hacking during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Asked if Russia could extradite 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted in the U.S. last week on charges of hacking into the Democratic election campaign, Putin challenged the U.S. to take advantage of a 1999 agreement envisaging mutual legal assistance.
He said the agreement would allow U.S. officials to request that Russian authorities interrogate the 12 suspects, adding that U.S. officials could request to be present in such interrogations.
Putin noted that Russia would expect the U.S. to return the favor and cooperate in the Russian probe against William Browder, a British investor charged of financial crimes in Russia. Browder was a driving force behind a U.S. law targeting Russian officials over human rights abuses.
Trump called it an “incredible offer.”
The Senate’s top Democrat accused Trump of a “shameful performance” during that news conference alongside Putin. The leading House Democrat called it “a sad day for America.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump’s remarks on his European trip, including Monday’s news conference, have strengthened America’s adversaries.
The New York Democrat said it is “thoughtless, dangerous and weak” for Trump to take Putin’s word that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russia did interfere, but the Kremlin has denied state involvement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s “weakness in front of Putin” proves the Russians have damaging information on him.