HELSINKI—President Donald Trump, standing beside Russian leader Vladimir Putin, questioned the U.S. intelligence conclusion that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election, a move lawmakers of both parties said was a stunning alignment with an adversary.
Mr. Trump said he and the Russian president “spent a great deal of time” discussing the matter during their four hours of talks here on Monday, and said Mr. Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.”
Asked whom he believed—U.S. intelligence agencies or Mr. Putin—Mr. Trump said Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, “came to me [and] said, they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia.”
“I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he added.
.. Mr. Putin said they discussed the possibility of inviting Mueller investigators to Russia to question the charged officers, but added he would expect the U.S. to offer a reciprocal arrangement. Mr. Trump interjected: “I think that’s an incredible offer.”
.. The U.S. has largely ceased cooperation with Russia on pursuing cybercriminals in recent years, as the line between Kremlin-sponsored espionage and routine cybercrime has increasingly blurred in Russia, according to former U.S. officials. Names of criminal hackers shared by U.S. law enforcement with Moscow would often not be arrested but instead wind up working in close alignment with Russia’s intelligence services, turning the effort to cooperate into a recruitment tool for the Kremlin, those officials said.
.. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who often advises the Trump administration, said the president should “clarify” his remarks about the U.S. intelligence community and Mr. Putin. “It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately,” he said in a tweet.
.. “I can’t remember a similar episode from modern American presidential history where, when standing beside the person who was our most dangerous adversary, the president continually refused to say a negative word on any subject,” said Mr. Burns, who also served as U.S. ambassador to NATO.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called Mr. Trump’s posture toward the Russian leader “a breach of his duty to defend our country against its adversaries.”
.. “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now,” Mr. Trump declared. “However, that changed, about four hours ago.” Hours earlier, in a tweet, Mr. Trump blamed the U.S. for the poor state of its relations with Moscow.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Twitter account on Monday quoted that tweet and wrote: “We agree.”
Mr. Trump said: “I hold both countries responsible.”
“The United States has been foolish. We’ve all been foolish,” he said. “We have both made some mistakes.”