Donald Trump says “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 US Presidential election.
He made the statement at a joint press conference in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin following hours of talks between the two leaders.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe” he said, dismissing an ongoing investigation in America by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump said he holds “both countries” responsible for the current state of their relations. Calling Putin “a competitor”, he said “I think the United States has been foolish […] I think we are all to blame”.
President Putin denied again that his country had interfered in the 2016 US elections.
Domestic political opponents of Trump have reacted strongly to his Helsinki comments.
Senator John McCain released a statement calling the press conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.
Former presidential candidate McCain said Trump “made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press”.
Questions from reporters to the leaders were limited, but an employee of Kremlin-backed propaganda TV channel Russia Today was allowed to pose a question.
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Vladimir Putin started the press conference by saying the meeting “is only the beginning of a longer process” of improving relations between America and Russia.
“Hopefully we will solve every one of the problems we discussed today”.
The pair also discussed their security and intelligence cooperation against ISIS in Syria, and at the recent World Cup in Russia.
However, Trump failed to mention the Russian invasion of Crimea in his opening comments, while Putin brushed off questions about Ukraine.
Also on the agenda at the Presidential Palace talks was nuclear proliferation, with Trump saying the two countries between them controlled 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.