US president says Vladimir Putin vehemently denied interfering in 2016 US election during G20 meeting, adding: Ive already devoted my opinion

Donald Trump said on Sunday that it was time to move forward in working constructively with Russia after his meeting at the G20 with Vladimir Putin.

After returning from the summit of the worlds leading economies in Germany on Saturday night, Trump began Sunday with a series of tweets defending himself against criticism that he had been too soft on the Russian leader at their first face-to-face meeting.

Trump said that he had strongly pressed Putin twice over Russian meddling in the 2016 general elections during their lengthy sit-down, adding: He vehemently denied it. Ive already dedicated my views …

US intelligence agencies have stated that Moscow tried to interfere with the election in order to assist Trump. But the president himself has been equivocal about whether he believes this, stating on Thursday: I think it could very well have been Russia. I think it could well have been other countries … Nobody genuinely knows for sure.

After Fridays meeting attended merely by the two presidents, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, and interpreters Lavrov claimed Trump had told Putin he accepted the Russian leaders denials of involvement in “re just trying to” sway last years American election, and Putin said on Saturday he guessed Trump believed those refusals.

[ Trump] asked a lot of questions on this subject, Putin said. I, inasmuch as I was able, answered these questions. It seems to me that he took these[ answers] on board and agreed with them, but in actual fact, its best to ask him how he views this.

But Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, took issue with that on Sunday. The chairman utterly didnt believe the denial of President Putin, he told Fox News.

In his tweets on Sunday, Trump went on to hail a ceasefire in south-west Syria brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan, which began at noon local day. We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives, the US president said. Now it is time to move forward in running constructively with Russia!

US intelligence agencies have warned that Russia will keep up its efforts to interfere in US and other elections. Ash Carter, US defence secretary under Barack Obama, told CNN that that fretted him. There are state elections, municipal elections, as well as national elections, he said. There are elections in other countries. Its important that there be outcomes for the Russians in regard to this.

At their meeting in Hamburg on Friday, Trump and Putin also announced they would set up a working group on non-interference in future elections.

Putin& I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking,& many other negative things, will be guarded … and safe, Trump tweeted.

This is like the guy who robbed your home proposing a group on burglary, Carter said. Its they who did this.

Trump also said he had not discussed sanctions with Russia. The US imposes a number of different sanctions on Russia, relating to Moscows backing of separatists in Ukraine, its weapons marketings, its human rights violations, and its interference in the 2016 election. Nothing will be done until the Ukraine& Syrian problems are solved! Trump tweeted.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is conducting one of the current congressional investigations into Russias interference in the election and its possible links to the Trump team, criticised the presidents comments on CNN on Sunday morning.

How can we really believe that the president pressed Putin hard when merely the day before he was denying whether we really knew Russia was responsible? the California Democrat asked. Were, I guess, meant to believe that hes much stronger in private than hes willing to be publicly, but why does that make any rational sense?

On the contrary, if he was really determined to press Putin, he would have gone into that session and said unequivocally this is what Russia did. Even by an account from the secretary of state, apparently the president asked Putin whether he did it, he didnt go in there and tackle him and say We know you did this, you have to stop.

John Brennan, former director of the CIA under Obama, agreed, telling NBC News: I severely question whether or not Mr Putin heard from Mr Trump what he needed to about the assault on our democratic institutions of the election.

Schiff went on to condemn Trumps suggestion that it was now time to move forward.

To say: OK, its been resolved , now we can move on I dont think we can move on. I dont think we can expect the Russians to be any kind of a credible partner in some kind of cybersecurity unit. I think that would be dangerously naive for this country. If thats our very best election defence, we might as well only mail our ballot boxes to Moscow. I dont think thats an answer at all.

He called the idea of working with Russia on cybersecurity dangerously naive, adding: The chairperson simply went into a meeting with a human who ordered hacking of our democratic institutions. So Putin wasnt just a tangential player here, he wasnt simply a disinterested party.

Putin could be of enormous assistance

On NBC News, Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a frequent critic of Trumps, said of the cyber-security working group: Its not the dumbest idea Ive ever heard, but its pretty close.

Another GOP senator frequently at odds with Trump, former presidential nominee John McCain, joked: Im assured that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that endeavour, since he is doing the hacking.

Schiff also said his committee was willing to call Trumps son Donald Trump Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his former campaign director Paul Manafort, following a New York Times tale exposing that the three held a meeting with a Russian lawyer with links to the Russian nation shortly after Trump won the Republican nomination, in what appears to have been the earliest known private session between key aides to the future chairman and a Russian.

It certainly raises questions for a variety of reasons, said Schiff. Of course the presidents son had denied having any kind of meetings like this. They claim that this meeting had nothing to do with the campaign and yet the Trump campaign manager is invited to come to the meeting, and there is no reason for this Russian government proponent to be meeting with Paul Manafort, or with Mr Kushner, or with the presidents son if it wasnt about the campaign and Russia policy.

He added: Plainly they were trying to influence one of the candidates, the leading candidate at that time on the Republican ticket.

Donald Trump Jr has said the session was about a program that used to allow US citizens to adopt Russian children, which was objective by Russia in response to American sanctions, known as the Magnitsky Act.

What it sounds like the session may have really been about … is the Magnitsky Act, and that is legislation, very powerful sanctions legislation, that goes against Russian human rights abusers, Schiff said. So if this was an effort to do away with that sanctions policy, that is obviously very significant. If theyre talking to the presidents squad, then candidate Trumps team, that contradicts, of course, what the president and his people have said about whether they were meeting with any representatives of the Russian government.

Why did Obama do NOTHING?

In his Sunday tweets, Trump also renewed his criticism of Obama, who has come under flame for an alleged absence of forcefulness in his response to the cyberattack. The Washington Post has reported that the Obama team was worried about triggering an escalation from Putin that might threaten the credibility of the election result, and also about being considered to be of weighing in on the side of Trumps Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Why did Obama do NOTHING when he had info before election? Trump tweeted.

Brennan, the former CIA director, defended the former administration. I dont believe that the Obama administration choked, he said.

I think we can look at specific actions that were taken prior to the election and after the election. I tackled my main Russian counterpart, and on August 4 and told him: If you go down this path, its going to have serious consequences , not only for the bilateral relationship, but for our ability to work with Russia on any issue, because it is an assault on our republic.

He added: And President Obama tackled President Putin in September. Jim Clapper[ former director of national intelligence] and Jeh Johnson[ former homeland security secretary] announced publicly in October about Russian efforts. So, when you are did that, I wonder whether or not the Russians then took a step back and said: Wait a minute now, are still not gonna be as aggressive as we may have been otherwise.

But Carter, Obamas defence secretary, admitted: I think its quite clear that that was not sufficient.

He added: Thats why its so important to press the Russians now. If it were sufficient, Vladimir Putins answer to our president wouldnt have been to say cast doubt upon it or ask for further intelligence from the United States.

Read more: www.theguardian.com