Even with expectations for President Donald Trump's performance at his Monday summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin set at rock-bottom levels, Trump still produced a debacle even worse than his critics had anticipated.
Despite the 12 reason indictments, Trump deflected admissions of the Kremlin's involvement in the 2016 election, saying "I don't see any reason" to believe Russian Federation was connected to hacking of the DNC server.
Other high-profile Republicans also expressed dismay. "I think that the United States has been foolish".
Even Trump's sometimes ally Sen.
One of the big questions pre-summit was whether Trump would call for the extradition to the USA of the 12 Russian spies indicted by Mueller.
Graham quipped that Trump ought to check a soccer ball Putin gave to Trump for listening devices, "and never allow it in the White House".
Trump for his part blamed bad relations between Moscow and Washington on the U.S. investigation into alleged Russian election meddling.
Before arriving for the meeting, Trump had gone even further, writing on Twitter that "Our relationship with Russian Federation has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity". He and Trump first went into a one-on-one meeting with only translators in the room; election meddling days after the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers by special counsel Robert Mueller was not included on the provided list of topics.
"As you know, the House Republicans have been pushing a provision in the defense bill that would create a loophole in sanctions targeted at Putin's defense and intelligence sectors", he told reporters. He just said it's not Russian Federation. He added: "I don't see any reason why they [the Russians] would have done it".
Former intelligence chiefs who served under President Barack Obama were scathing in their criticism of his remarks.
At a press conference following the summit, Trump praised their "direct, open and deeply productive dialogue" and emphasised the need for continued diplomacy over confrontation.
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence from 2010 to 2017, called Trump's performance "an incredible capitulation".
Although the two leaders took only a few questions from journalists, both presidents passed up opportunities to provide direct answers to pointed queries. "It was awesome and very, very disturbing".
"Our law enforcement is perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States", Putin said. The detectives who flew to Moscow found themselves in a PR pantomime, with their efforts to get evidence thwarted by the state.
Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina issued a statement criticizing Russian Federation, but not mentioning Trump. When then-Fox News host Bill O'Reilly referred to Putin as "a killer" in a February 2017 interview, the newly inaugurated President shot back: "There are a lot of killers".