BRIDGEWATER, N.J. – Given the condemnation of allies and enemies alike on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump himself was outnumbered in the Oval Office. Top advisers gathered to persuade the president to make a rare regression to the comments he made when he stood by Vladimir Putin's side and doubted the US intelligence's conclusions on Russian electoral interests.
Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Chief of Staff John Kelly were united on Tuesday in the West Wing claiming that the Commander-in-Chief had a lot to do. They brought troubling words from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as from a number of congressional leaders and supporters of the President, for whom Trump's public praise of Putin was a bridge too far. [1
Trump had run off the stage after his joint press conference in Helsinki and rode to his second summit with an opponent in so many months. The highly choreographed affairs had been sought by the US leader as a means to increase his credibility abroad and his amiability at home, and he believed that the latter had done the job.
But when Air Force One ascended Finland's endless climb On Monday night, Trump's mood darkened.
He told the confidants in the following days that he was satisfied as his summit with Putin went, believing he had taken the man's measure and opened the door to business on a number of sensitive topics.
But it was not portrayed at home.
On the long flight to Washington, the President began to turn to allies and helpers and began to stifle over negative media coverage, even from the usually friendly Fox News, to five outside allies and Republicans close to the White House not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
The reviews he received were muted – Trump rare ta It was nice to lead direct confrontation – but it was a taste of what awaited him on his return to Washington, where unwavering allies, such as the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
When he arrived At home, the parade of critical utterances had become a mass panic, and Trump was the most isolated man he had been since the last year's disagreement over white racists in Charlottesville at the White House. Some in the president's circle saw parallels in the reaction to this incident when the president withdrew his August comments criticizing "both sides" for protests in the city of Virginia, later returning to his original position – that of both white racists and their critics blamed the violence.
Trump waited 27 hours, sent five tweets, and after his first comments in Helsinki sat for two television interviews before claiming he had used a confusing "double negative" and meant "would" instead of "would not" in a key phrase his press conference about who was responsible for the voting.
"The sentence should have read: I see no reason why I would not – or why not Russia," said the President on Tuesday before a meeting with Republican Congressmen.
The next day brought a new challenge. Trump responded to a reporter's question with a "No" answer as to whether Russia was still heading for the US. Hours later, press spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders turned up and said Trump had just tried to stop the questioning with "no", although he continued to discuss Russia afterward.
And Sanders has given the government a new headache when she said the White House is still considering a proposal from Putin to allow Russian law enforcement officials access to Americans accused by the Kremlin of unspecified crimes in return for US access to interrogation Russian agents accused of their alleged role in interfering in the 2016 elections. The State Department, on the other hand, rejected the suggestion Trump had earlier called an "incredible offer – as" absurd. "
Many in the White House did not see a flaw in Sander's comments that the West Wing was merely in light of the Kremlin bid, but it provided fresh tinder for the two-party firestorm.
Trump's mood worsened, according to confidants, as every effort by the White House to cleanse the situation enveloped the growing cross-party backlash. He scolded his staff for not managing the fallout better. He was furious with the two American reporters, including one from The Associated Press, who posed questions at the Helsinki press conference. And he seethed about the lack of support he believed he received from Congressional Republicans.
Also a target of the President's anger was the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who published a rare statement refuting the president's remarks on Monday. But it was Coats' television interview on Thursday at a security conference in Aspen, Colorado, which called the president back when the intelligence chief questioned the wisdom of the Putin meeting and said he hoped Trump would not be alone to meet the Russian
All this left the White House employees in a new state of resignation about their work.
"I saw the screaming headline on Cable TV that there is discomfort in the West Wing and I'm looking forward to meeting them." joked Presidential Adviser Kellyanne Conway. "I do not see that."
Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press author Ken Thomas contributed to this report from Washington.
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