Trump, Putin begin day of meetings in Helsinki -- live updates
Following slight delays in schedule, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have begun their day of meetings in Helsinki, Finland amid increasing tensions between the two nations.
"The world wants to see us get along," Mr. Trump remarked during the leaders' first formal meeting, adding, "I think we'll end up having an extraordinary relationship."
Mr. Trump says he's going into his meeting with "very low expectations," he told "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor. The bilateral summit nonetheless will be closely watched, amid concern from world leaders and U.S. lawmakers alike that the president may be too frie ndly toward a known adversary of the United States.
Mr. Trump kicked off his day by tweeting that U.S.-Russia relations were being soured by U.S. "foolishness" including the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It was a sentiment the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared after tweeting their own response: "We agree"
- Trump calls European Union a "foe" before meeting Putin
The president's top national security advisers have advised him publicly and privately to adopt a more hawkish tone towards Russia going into the summit, especially given the Justice Department's announcement Friday -- days before his meeting -- of a new round of indictments against 12 Russians for their alleged attempts to interfere in the presidential election. Democrats and some Republicans called on the president to call off the meeting, but the White House, when asked if the allegations would disrupt Mr. Tru mp's planned rendezvous with Putin, declared it was "still on."
Fueling European concerns about the meeting, when Glor asked Mr. Trump who he considered to be the biggest foe, he answered, "Well, I think we have a lot of foes. 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. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive."
Follow along for live updates of the leaders' meeting below:
Trump predicts "extraordinary relationship" with Russia
"The world wants to see us get along," Mr. Trump remarked during the leaders' first formal meeting in Helsinki. He added, "Getting along with Russia is a good thing not a bad thing."
He spent a majority of time congratulating the leader on hosting a successful World Cup but said the two had a "lot of good things to talk about" in their private meeting today. Issues the president previewed as topics for discussion include trade, military, missiles and China.
"We have great opportunities together as two countries that frankly we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years," Mr. Trump said. "I think we'll end up having an extraordinary relationship," he predicted.
Mr. Trump added that the fact the two countries share a commonality in being nuclear powers is "not a good thing, that's a bad thing."
"I think we hopefully can do something about that, it's not a positive force it's a negative force so we'll be talking about that among other things," Mr. Trump said at the close of their first meeting.
According to the Associated Press, Putin, who spoke before Mr. Trump due to diplomatic protocol of being considered the "host" country, said that "the time has come to talk thoroughly about bilateral relations as well as various hotspots in the world." He called the meeting part of "continued constant contacts" between the two leaders.
Mr. Trump and Putin shook hands without answering shouted questions from reporters before heading to their private one-on-one meeting.
Trump arrives at palace for meeting
After a significant delay in schedule, Mr. Trump and the U.S. delegation have arrived at the Presidential Palace for their day of meetings. The first lady, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders were seen following the president inside.
Putin arrives at presidential palace
Russian President Putin has arrived at the Presidential Palace as crowds of people lined the streets outside to watch the procession. He is greeted by President Niinitos upon his arrival. Mr. Trump is expected to follow behind Putin in roughly 10 minutes.
Putin lands in Helsinki
After a slight delay, President Putin has touched down in Helsinki ahead of the summit. The Russian leader is expected to arrive at the Presidential Palace first, followed by Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
Clinton knocks Trump in World Cup tweet
Former 2016 presidential campaign challenger Hillary Clinton appeared to jab at Mr. Trump as he heads int o his meeting with Putin on Monday in a tweet to mark the World Cup final.
"Great World Cup. Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?" the former Secretary of State posed for the president.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump raised eyebrows for his own World Cup tweet, congratulating both the winning team, France, as well as Putin and Russia "for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament." He hailed it as "one of the best ever!"
Trump on Putin meeting: "We'll do just fine"
Mr. Trump kicked off Monday's day of events by joining the President of the Republic of Finland and the first ladies at the MÃ¤ntyniemi Residence for an official welcome ceremony.
Later at a breakfast he thanked the president for hosting the historic summit and lauded the strength of the NATO alliance following his summit in Brussels.
"Well we think Finland's a great country. We had a fantastic meeting a few days ago. Some of you were there. It was a very successful meeting. I think NATO has never been more together. People are now agreeing to pay and we were having a lot of problem with a lot of people not paying as the president will tell you. And they're paying and they're paying more rapidly. And I think NATO's probably never been stronger than it is today," said Mr. Trump.
Mr. Trump appeared to ignore questions when asked if he had a message to President Putin for later today, but told reporters in a shift from his early morning tweets: "We'll do just fine, thank you."
Trump claims U.S.-Russia relationship "never been worse"
Ahead of his meeting with Putin, Mr. Trump took to twitter, blaming poor relations with Russia on the ongoing Russia probe. He said that the U.S. relationship with Russia has "NEVER been worse" thanks to the "many years of U.S. foolish ness and stupidity and now, the rigged witch hunt!"
Russia's Foreign Minister tweeted some later that they "agreed" with the president's sentiment.
The president made similar claims to CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor in an interview on Saturday, where he said the U.S.-Russia relationship has been "greatly hampered" by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference int he 2016 election.
"I think we're greatly hampered by this whole witch hunt that's going on in the United States. The Russian witch hunt. The rigged situation," said Mr. Trump in an interview with Glor at the president's golf course in Turnberry, Scotland on Saturday.
Ukraine, Crimea and sanctions
Leading up to the meeting with Putin, Mr. Trump has also been asked about Crimea. In response, he has blamed President Obama for allowing Putin to annex Crimea from Ukraine during his administration in 2014. Putin, Mr. Trump said at a news conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May last week that Obama "failed very badly with Crimea - I wouldn't have done that." "We'll have to see what happens," he added.
At the time, Mr. Obama condemned the move, and the U.S. and E.U. sanctioned Russia afterward. Even now, only countries like Venezuela and Syria recognize Crimea as part of Russia. In May, Russia bolstered its relationship with Crimea with t he completed construction of a bridge from Russia to Crimea.
While Ukraine and some European allies fear that Mr. Trump will recognize the annexation of Crimea, National Security Adviser told ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," "That is not the policy of the U.S." The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman was also asked about Crimea Sunday. "I think it's highly unlikely that that will come up in their conversation," he told NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that there are "so many other things to talk about."
And at this point, U.S. sanctions against Russia over the annexation still remain in place, many of them dating back to the Obama administration in 2014. Russia has also been sanctioned by the U.S. over election meddling and other cyber attacks like NotPetya, which the U.S. and U.K. believe the Russian military executed, and which cost billions in damage across Europe, Asia and the U.S.
Syria and Iran
A centerpiece of the Helsinki summit will be the future of Syria and a proposal to enlist Russia as a partner in ousting Iran from that battlefield.
Recently, on CBS News' "Face the Nation," National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton signaled to CBS News' Margaret Brennan that the U.S. has dropped its rhetorical opposition to dictator Bashar al Assad, who has held onto power in Syria through a mix of brutal tactics such as c hemical weapons, and the firepower of Russian and Iranian forces, including Hezbollah.
"I don't think Assad is the strategic issue. I think Iran is the strategic issue," Bolton said. As Brennan has reported, the Trump administration has accepted that Assad will remain in power for the immediate future and has decided to focus on convincing Putin to sever ties with his battlefield partner Iran.
It's not clear that Russia has the leverage or ability to push out Iran, which has served as Assad's main patron through the war, now in its seventh year. The U.S. does have its own leverage through a limited military presence of about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria to assist local forces in the fight against ISIS. But Mr. Trump has said he doesn't want to keep those troops in Syria.
There are concerns about brokering another deal with Russia on Syria, since Putin is already currently violating the 2017 agreement that he personally brokered with Trump to halt attacks inside a so-called de--escalation zone in southern Syria.
Trump tweets on success ahead of meeting
On Sunday before arriving in Helsinki, Mr. Trump tweeted that he looked forward to meeting with Putin but that no matter how successful it was, he predicted the news media would paint it as a failure.
"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 comm itted 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," he tweeted.
Trump claims NATO members "thanked" him for Putin meeting
Ahead of Monday's meeting, Mr. Trump told reporters in Brussels that allied nations have expressed "the opposite of concern" over his summit with Putin and in fact thanked him for arranging it.
"They actually a nd they'll probably come out with a little bit of an edict. They actually thanked me for meeting. They thanked me for doing it and they gave us their best wishes. We'll see what happens. It's just a loose meeting. It's not a big schedule. It's not going to take a long time. And we'll see where it leads but it could lead to something very productive," Mr. Trump remarked on Thursday.
Lawmakers have expressed serio us concerns with the president's meeting since the announcement of the summit, particularly as it relates to the U.S. election system's integrity heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer warned in a joint statement last week that if Mr. Trump leaves the summit with Putin without "ironclad assurances" from Russia that they won't carry out similar attacks on the U.S. election system, "this meeting will not only be a failure - it will be a grave step backward for the future of the international order and global security."
"The president needs to remember that, as Commander-in-Chief, his duty is to protect the American people from foreign threats, not to sell out our democracy to Putin," they added.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said that the summit was not a surprise as Mr. Trump has a "disturbing affinity for authoritarian figures." He added that the president should use the meeting to confront Putin on Russian interference in the U.S. elections but worries it will instead end up being a "gift to the Kremlin."
Republican and frequent Trump critic Sen. John McCain cast doubt that the summit should even move forward in light of the new indictments.
McCain tweeted that Mr. Trump "must be willing to confront Putin from a position of strength and demonstrate there will be a price to pay for his ongoing aggression." He added, "If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the #HelsinkiSummit should not move forward."
Fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona echoed that sentiment, tweeting that the indictments reaffirm that "election interference is not a question to be asked of Vladimir Putin, but a statement to be made to Vladimir Putin: You interfered in our elections."
Will Trump raise Russian meddling in 2016?
All eyes are on Mr. Trump to see if he will press Putin on Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election. National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters in Moscow late last month that he "expects it will be a subject of conversation between the two presidents."
Mr. Trump confirmed to reporters in Brussels during the NATO summit that he would in fact be asking about meddling during their meeting. Asked what he would do if the Russians denied such meddling, Mr. Trump replied: &quo t;He [Putin] may."
"He may deny it. It's one of those things. All I can say is, did you? And don't do it again. But he may deny. You'll be the first to know, okay."
The Kremlin, however, has repeatedly reiterated its denial of any interference with the election. "It was stated clearly by our side that the Russian state hasn't interfered with the U.S. domestic politics, moreover hasn't interfered in the 2016 election," Putin aide Yuri Ushakov said at a press conference last month after the U.S. and Moscow laid groundwork for the Helsinki meeting.
"The Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in U.S. elections," insisted Putin's foreign affairs adviser again on Friday, hours before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictments.
Asked about the possibility of extraditing the Russians indicted in the DOJ's charges, Mr. Trump told Glor on Saturday , "I might."
What's on the schedule?
A senior U.S. official told CBS News that the two leaders will have extended one-on-one meeting, which has heightened concern among some U.S. officials regarding any concessions that may be made when the two are in the room together. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the Russian government-funded network RT that it was the U.S. that requested that the Trump-Putin meeting take place without aides in the room.
According to top advisers of the president, Mr. Trump's private one-on-one meeting with Putin is scheduled to last about half-an-hour but could go even longer than that. Putin has met with three previous U.S. presidents before Mr. Trump, but never has there been a private session of this magnitude.
Afterward, Putin and Mr. Trump are also expected to take part in an expanded bilateral meeting that includes their top advisers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
The two leaders will also be holding a joint press conference following their meetings.
Russian aides also say that Putin and Mr. Trump may adopt a joint statement on international security issues, including "improving bilateral relations, both in terms of joint actions in the international arena and in terms of ensuring international stability and security."