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As it happenedended1531777408

Trump-Putin meeting: John McCain among many to launch blistering attacks on US president's performance at Helsinki summit press conference

Both Democrats and Republicans lambast Mr Trump as 'weak' as he declines to defend US intelligence reports that Moscow sought to interfere in 2016 vote

Oliver Carroll
Helsinki
,Peter Stubley,Chris Stevenson
Monday 16 July 2018 22:42 BST
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Putin says he had to tell Trump several times that he did not interfere in US election

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Donald Trump has caused outrage in Washington after backing Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial that Moscow was involved in meddling in the 2016 US presidential election - over his own nation's intelligence reports

Mr Trump, who was seeking to change the relationship between the White House and the Kremlin, said he could think of "no reason" why Russia would be involved. There is consensus among US intelligence agencies that Russia did seek to alter the election, although Mr Putin has repeatedly denied it.

In Washington, the condemnation came thick and fast. Former CIA director John Brennan called Mr Trump's actions "treasonous", while Republican Senator John McCain called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

The Arizona Republican said the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki was “a tragic mistake.”

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Outside the Helsinki palace where the meeting took place hundreds of protesters gathered in the streets in support of a variety of causes including abortion rights, gay rights and anti-facism. One sign read: "Lets make human rights great again".

The US president's summit with Mr Putin follows contentious visits to Nato in Brussels and to the UK, where he was greeted with widespread demonstrations against his administration.

Mr Putin meanwhile is on a high after Russia's triumphant hosting of the World Cup, although questions linger over the novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal on British soil.

In an interview on Good Morning Britain before heading off to Helsinki, Mr Trump described his Russian counterpart as a "competitor" and said it was too early to say whether they were friends or enemies.

He also claimed that the EU was one of America's biggest enemies because of "what they do to us in trade" and repeated his description of the media as the "enemy of the people".

Mr Trump went on to issue a tweet blaming "US foolishness and stupidity" and what he called the "rigged witch hunt" for bad relations with Russia, to which the Russian Foreign Ministry replied "We agree".

He had been due to meet alone with the Russian president for one-and-a-half hours from around 11am UK time, but Mr Putin arrived at Helsinki airport half an hour later than expected. The joint press conference was due to start at 2.50pm.

The US president has said he was going into the meeting with "low expectations". There is no official agenda for the talks and Democrats have raised fears that Mr Putin will "try to take advantage", such as by reaching an agreement on the annexation of Crimea.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's live coverage as Donald Trump meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The US president set off from Glasgow Prestwick Airport just after 4pm on Sunday, following his four-day visit to the UK.

He appeared to set the tone for the talks by congratulating Mr Putin and Russia for hosting "one of the best ever" World Cup tournaments. 

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 09:07
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Mr Trump also seemed keen to show people lining the streets to greet his arrival in the Finnish capital - before returning to one of his favourite themes, the rigged "Witch Hunt" investigation into Russian interference in the elections.

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 09:34
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The US President has said he is going into the meeting with low expectations.

There is no set agenda for the talks, which national security adviser John Bolton described as "unstructured" 

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 09:54
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Reuters reports that Mr Trump appeared "upbeat" during breakfast with the president of Finland before his meeting with Mr Putin.

Asked what he would say to Putin, Trump said: “We’ll do just fine, thank you.”

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 10:07
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Germany's foreign minister has said Europe can no longer rely on the US after Donald Trump called the European Union a "foe".

"We can no longer completely rely on the White House," Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group. "To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe."

He added: "Europe must not let itself be divided however sharp the verbal attacks and absurd the tweets may be."

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 10:10
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According to the Kremlin's website, the two leaders "will discuss Russian-US relations and their further development, as well as current international matters."

There is little hope for a breakthrough on the scale of Gerald Ford's meeting with Leonid Brezhnev or Bill Clinton's with Boris Yeltsin. It is thought likely that the meeting will produce a vague statement on Syria and a commitment to resume inter-governmental dialogue.

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 10:28
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Following the protests against Donald Trump in the UK last week, more than 2,000 demonstrators marched in support of human rights in Helsinki on Sunday. More demonstrations are planned today.

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 10:53
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The Russian president has landed. He finally arrived at Helsinki airport at around 11am UK time - around half an hour later than expected - for his meeting with Donald Trump.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman said he hopes the summit with Donald Trump is a "baby step" toward fixing relations between the two countries.

Dmitry Peskov told broadcaster RT that the leaders had no strict agenda but claimed other countries should not be worried about decisions being made "over the heads of Europeans." 

Mr Putin is expected to repeat denials of meddling in the 2016 US presidential campaign, according to Russian officials.

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 11:06
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Vladimir Putin is famous for keeping other world leaders waiting.

The Russian president was late for meetings with the Queen, Pope Francis and German chancellor Angela Merkel, among many others.

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 11:19
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President Putin has arrived at the presidential palace, where he will first meet one on one with Donald Trump in the Gothic Hall. 

They are expected to continue their discussion over lunch in the Hall of Mirrors before taking questions at a joint news conference, scheduled for around 2.50pm.

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry has replied to Mr Trump's tweet blaming US "stupidity and foolishness" for bad relations with Russia: "We agree."

Kristin Hugo16 July 2018 11:50

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