The Monday press conference between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, has been met with widespread denunciation on the part of President Trump’s performance. The President’s critics have been expressing their disapproval over his behavior in the form of his frequent defense and complimenting of Putin as well as not taking opportunities to hold Russia accountable for declining relations between Russia and the U.S.
When asked by a journalist of the Associated Press whether he believes in Putin’s denial of interfering with the 2016 election or the information held by US intelligence, which concludes otherwise, President Trump proceeded to question the whereabouts of a missing email server from the Democratic National Committee. He then stated, “[President Putin] said, ‘It’s not Russia.’ I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump was also asked if he would denounce Putin for interfering with the election, to which he replied, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Throughout the press conference, president Trump frequently declared that “there was no collusion” between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump denounced the Mueller probe, an investigation into the possibility of Russian interference in the election, as “disgraceful” and “a witch hunt.” This is tied to the recent indictment of 12 Russian agents for alleged cyberattacks during the 2016 election.
Trump’s statements have been understood by most media outlets as siding with Russia, leading commentators to call for Trump’s impeachment and deem him as a traitor for dismissing and undermining the U.S. intelligence community several times in front of global media.
The same day of the summit in Helsinki, the phrases “Traitor Trump” and “LockHimUp” were projected onto the federal building in San Francisco as well as cartoons depicting Trump and Putin.
Many political commentators and lawmakers have called his performance “disastrous”, including his proponents at Fox News and his supporters in the GOP. Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto described it as “disgusting” and “wrong.”
Anderson Cooper of MSNBC said that this has been “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president.”
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain made statements regarding President Trump’s performance: “Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” he wrote. “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”
Spontaneous protests of the president’s behavior have manifested in front of the White House in response to the controversy. Dubbed “#OccupyLafayettePark”, the protesters gathered with signs on Monday night chanting “Putin’s puppet” and “traitor” as well as gathering and growing on Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Protesters have also recently gathered in Times Square.