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Trump is still a 'meh' on Russia's election meddling ahead of Putin talks

President Donald Trump and of Russian President Vladimir

President Donald Trump and of Russian President Vladimir Putin are to meet Monday in Helsinki. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Don Emmert

He's just not that into it

The "400-pound guy" on his bed is off the hook with Donald Trump. In the 48 hours since the announcement that 12 Russian military intelligence agents have been indicted on charges of breaking into Democrats' computer networks in 2016 seeking to tip the election in Trump's favor, the president quieted his doubts about Moscow's culpability.

But he shows no sign that he cares a lot, or even blames Russia as much as he blames his predecessor ("Why didn’t Obama do something about it?") or the victims (“The DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked.")

National security adviser John Bolton said on ABC's "This Week" that it's "hard to believe" Russian President Vladimir Putin didn't know about the interference. Bolton contended that when Trump meets with Putin at their summit in Helsinki on Monday, the indictments "strengthens his hand" in pressing the issue. But Trump has signaled that if Putin lies to him again, he is ready to shrug it off.

"I will absolutely bring that up. I don't think you'll have any, 'Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me.' There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think," Trump said Friday. And then? "And hopefully, we'll have a very good relationship with Russia," he said Friday.

 Administration officials have warned Trump that the threat from Russian cyberattacks continues, but he refuses to take it seriously because he sees any suggestion that Moscow's thumb on the scale helped him as an attack on the legitimacy of his 2016 victory, Axios reports.

He will save his anger for special counsel Robert Mueller's "witch hunt" investigation — which is exposing the depth and breadth of Russia's interference — and for his "NO COLLUSION!" tweets.

For more, see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler and David M. Schwartz.

Can't satisfy you people

Trump said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he's heading into Monday’s meeting with Putin with “very low expectations.”

“I think that getting along with Russia is a good thing, but it’s possible we won’t,” Trump said.

Then, on Twitter, he mocked critics who call him too soft on Putin.

"Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia . . . over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!"

Winding up the tweet threat by hitting his favorite targets, Trump said: "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems ... ... know how to do is resist and obstruct!"

Janison: Shoes still to drop?

Following the indictments of the 12 Russians, Trump's legal and press office mouthpieces pushed the line that the absence of Americans among the latest charged puts his campaign in the clear on the "collusion" question. That's spinful thinking.

As Newsday's Dan Janison writes, the indictment included the intriguing statement that "the conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump." More of the story remains to be told as the probe continues, and pressure did increase on Trump to go through the motions of raising the issue with Putin.

That Helsink-ing feeling

Election interference aside, there is concern in Washington and throughout the West over whether Trump will hold firm on other critical issues, including Putin’s intervention in Syria and Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.

Trump's behavior at the NATO summit and his trip to Britain only underscored anxieties. Trump echoed Putin’s ideological worldview and his political posture — from decrying immigration patterns that the U.S. president said were destroying European culture to assaulting the media and blaming the U.S. “deep state" for the poor condition of U.S.-Russian relations.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, predicted that Putin will “take advantage” of Trump and voiced alarm at the plan for them to meet with no aides and only translators present.

“Vladimir Putin is a trained KGB agent. He may come in with maps of Syria or maps of Ukraine, and frankly I think he’ll take advantage of this president, who we know doesn’t do much prep work before these meetings,” Sen. Mark Warner said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

No Europe paeans from Trump

In a CBS News interview on the eve of meeting Putin, Trump was asked to identify his "biggest foe globally right now." The first of his list: "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe."

He went on to describe Russia as a "foe in certain respects" and China as "a foe economically."

Trump's antipathy to the EU puts him on the same side as Putin. In 2013-14, a popular uprising in Ukraine in favor of closer ties with the EU instead of Russia led to a military incursion by Putin and the annexation of Crimea.

See Eidler and Schwartz's story for Newsday.

A ploy named sue

Trump complained last week that British Prime Minister Theresa May wouldn't take his advice on how to steer Brexit — Britain's exit from the EU. He wouldn't say what he recommended other than to say that May found it too "brutal."

May revealed the advice Sunday in an interview with the BBC.
“He told me I should sue the EU — not go into negotiations. Sue them." She added with a laugh: "Actually, no, we’re going into negotiations with them,” May said.

Threatening lawsuits has been a standard Trump business tactic. It remains a mystery what grounds he thought Britain could find to sue the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk answered with a snarky tweet: “America and the EU are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news."

What else is happening:

  • Trump told a British interviewer that "I fully intend" to run in 2020 — "it seems like everybody wants me to." But there was one slight equivocation: ‘Well you never know what happens with health and other things."
  • White House canceled Bolton's scheduled appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was to punish the network for "bad behavior" by its reporter Jim Acosta during the Trump-May news conference. What did Acosta do? He tried to ask a question.
  • The White House fired a top National Security Council official, Jennifer Arangio, who clashed with other officials there, including policy aide Stephen Meller. "She has fought to correct misleading information about refugees and migrants provided to the president by Miller" and other domestic advisers, a former White House official told Politico.
  • Trump's respite in Scotland before the flight to Helsinki gave him another opportunity for a common pastime of his presidency — promoting a Trump-branded property — in this case his money-losing golf course in Turnberry, Politico reports. “The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
  • Scottish police said they arrested a man in connection with a Greenpeace protest that breached a no-fly security zone and flew a banner from a paraglider close to Turnberry while Trump was there.
  • U.S. and North Korean officials held "productive" talks Sunday to discuss the return of U.S. service members' remains missing since the Korean War, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. The North Koreans had canceled a meeting last week.

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