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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said he "has full faith" in and accepts the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that meddling took place during the 2016 elections as he prepared to meet with members of Congress at the White House on Tuesday.

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that meddling took place," Trump said reading from remarks which came more than a day after he questioned their findings. He added that it "could be other people also. There's a lot of people out there."

His typed prepared remarks included what appeared to be a handwritten note in black marker which read: "There was no collusion."

Trump said he misspoke during Monday's joint presser with Vladimir Putin and meant to say there was no reason "it wouldn't be Russia" behind election meddling.

"I said the word would instead of wouldn't...I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself."

At one point, the lights in the White House room went out as Trump made his remarks.

"Oops, they just turned off the light," Trump said, joking: "That must be the intelligence agencies."

Trump also defended his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, insisting it was a success in spite of the widespread political backlash at home over his remarks at a Helsinki news conference.

"I think this was our most successful visit and that had to do, as you know, with Russia. I met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in an attempt to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing humanity," Trump said. "We have never been in a worse relationship with Russia than we are as of a few days ago, and I think that's gotten substantially better and I think it has the possibility of getting much better."

Later Tuesday afternoon, the White House circulated a press release of all the ways President Trump is "protecting our elections and standing up to Russia's malign activities," while also strengthening alliances and "troop readiness in Europe."

The president drew criticism, even from some of his closest Republican allies, for his earlier comments during the summit's press conference in which he seemed to accept Putin's denials of election meddling in conflict with his own intelligence community's conclusion that Russia did, in fact, interfere in the election.

Among the strongest rebukes of the president's performance came from close ally Newt Gingrich, who called for Trump to immediately correct what he characterized as the "the most serious mistake of his presidency."

The president took to Twitter Tuesday morning to double down on his assessment that the meeting with Putin was successful, even more so than his meeting with the United States' closest allies at NATO.

The president also offered thanks to Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who was one of a small number of Republicans who offered a defense of the president.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers have expressed concern over what might have been discussed between Trump and Vladimir Putin during the private, two-hour meeting in Helsinki.

Senate Democrats are calling on the U.S. translator who was in the meeting to testify before Congress, "to determine what was specifically discussed and agreed to on the United States' behalf."

"We're even more worried about what happened in those two hours when the president was alone with Mr. Putin," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. "Does anyone believe that he was tougher on Putin in secret than he was publicly?"

Schumer is also calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, and US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman to testify before Congress. Schumer said he spoke with Coats Monday night, but he wouldn't share what was discussed.

"This is too important not to get the full story out before the Senate," Schumer said.

Senate Democrats are also demanding the administration turn over all the "contemporaneous notes" taken during the meeting.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights activist who was recently arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy, was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday on a second offense of acting as an agent of a foreign government.

Butina, who is alleged to have been a “covert Russian agent” developing an “influence operation” in the United States since 2015, faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison for the first offense and a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison for the second offense.

It is routine for prosecutors to seek a grand jury indictment after initially filing charges with a criminal complaint. According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Butina is due to appear before Judge Deborah A. Robinson in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Butina denied the charges through an attorney, who called the complaint against her “overblown” and said she “intends to defend her rights vigorously and looks forward to clearing her name.”

Butina, 29, had been a mysterious presence in conservative circles over the past several years. She cofounded the Russian gun-rights group “The Right to Bear Arms” with Alexander Torshin, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, and then, according to prosecutors, used those seemingly shared interests to cultivate ties to high-ranking NRA officials and conservative politicians in the United States.

Butina and Torshin were frequent attendees of the annual NRA conventions, and former NRA president David Keene returned the favor. In 2013, Butina introduced Keene at the Right to Bear Arms annual conference in Moscow, and in 2015, she hosted a delegation of NRA board members, including Keene, in Moscow.

The relationship appears to have positioned her to get close to other powerful people, including the president. At the FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas in July 2015, Butina asked then-candidate Donald Trump a question about whether he would uphold “damaging” Russian sanctions. She also attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. in February 2017, where President Trump was the keynote speaker.

Meanwhile, she was pursuing a master’s degree in international relations from American University, where she graduated in May, but law enforcement officials now believe that was just a cover as she acted as a “covert Russian agent” seeking to “exploit personal connections” and “infiltrate organizations active in U.S. politics in an effort to advance” Russian interests.

Throughout her time in the United States, according to the affidavit attached to the initial criminal complaint, she received guidance from an unnamed Russian official who, based on the description, appears to be Torshin, and coordinated with two unnamed U.S. persons, whose identities remain opaque.

According to the affidavit, Butina and the Russian official “took steps to develop relationships with America politicians in order to establish private, or as she called them, ‘back channel’ lines of communication. These lines could be used by the Russian Federation to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation.”

That effort appears to have been focused on the NRA. In private messages, Butina emailed one of the unnamed U.S. persons, describing what she called the “central place and influence” the NRA enjoys in an unnamed political party as the “largest sponsor of the elections to the US congress, as well as a sponsor of The CPAC conference and other events.”

The following year, that U.S. person emailed an acquaintance, saying “I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin” and leaders of an unnamed political party through an unnamed gun rights organization.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In October of 2016, less than one day after the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape was uncovered by the Washington Post, Alabama congresswoman Martha Roby became one of the first prominent Republicans to announce she would not vote for Donald Trump as a result.

Not even two years later, that decision could factor into her runoff in the GOP primary in Alabama's 2nd Congressional District Tuesday after falling well short of a majority in the first round of voting on June 5.

Her opponent, Bobby Bright, a former Democratic congressman and mayor of Montgomery now running as a Republican, is seeking to make Roby the fourth member of the House, and third Republican, to be defeated in a primary this year.

In a field of five last month, Roby captured 39 percent of the vote to Bright's 28.1 percent, leaving an additional 32.9 percent at play Tuesday if Roby and Bright's supporters stick with their candidates.

Despite Bright's past as a member of the Democratic Party, he has become an ardent supporter of the president who has criticized Roby's 2016 "Never Trump" position, characterizing her stance as an act of "disloyalty."

"Donald Trump's behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president, and I won't vote for him," said Roby in her October 2016 statement. "As disappointed as I've been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party. Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket."

"Hillary Clinton must not be president, but, with Trump leading the ticket, she will be," concluded Roby, in a prediction that would turn out to be incorrect.

Any animosity between the president and congresswoman over her decision appears to have been buried, as Trump endorsed Roby in late June. Trump also went so far as to attack Bright for his vote to elect Nancy Pelosi speaker of the House while a Democratic member of Congress in 2009.

"Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda," the president tweeted. "She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!"

Bright responded to the endorsement shortly after, chalking Trump's decision up to politics.

"It appears the D.C. powerbrokers have gotten to the president on this issue. It’s truly a swamp of insiders controlled by big money special interests," Bright said in a statement, adding that the endorsement wouldn't prevent his continued backing of Trump. "I support President Trump and his America First agenda. I always will. He can count on me to be his partner to build the Wall, promote peace through strength, and work for prosperity for all."

Should Roby lose Tuesday, she would join Reps. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.; Mark Sanford, R-S.C.; and Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.; as incumbents who have fallen victim to upstart primary challengers.

Other noteworthy runoffs in Alabama Tuesday include the Republican primary races for lieutenant governor and attorney general, which have attracted influential outsiders in the campaigns' final days.

On Monday, former Trump political adviser Roger Stone stumped for Troy King, who is challenging incumbent Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall after the pair finished in the top two of a tight first round that saw all four Republican candidates receive over 20 percent of the vote. Marshall, who is seeking his first election to the post after being appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley, has been boosted by events with fellow state attorney generals, including Florida's Pam Bondi, a close ally of the president.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Environment and health advocates are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon a proposed rule that they say would hurt environmental protections by blocking the agency from using some scientific research in its regulations.

The EPA held a public hearing on its "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science" rule Tuesday, which former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said would bar the agency from basing regulations on science where the raw data is not made public -- what Pruit called "secret science." More than 200,000 public comments have been submitted on the proposal since it was announced in April.

Dozens of representatives from groups including the American Lung Association, Moms Clean Air Force, and Union of Concerned Scientists testified against the proposal in the hearing.

When he announced the rule, Pruitt said it would make regulations at the agency more transparent because any study used to write a rule could be replicated. But critics say because many EPA rules are related to protecting health, some of the data that is used in that research can't be released without breaching the privacy of the people involved.

Advocates from health and environmental groups say the rule is vague and would block regulators from citing research into the health effects of pollution, which usually does not release raw data due to privacy concerns.

Michael Halpern, director of the Center for Science and Democracy and the Union for Concerned Scientists, testified that the rule would prevent EPA from carrying out its mission to protect human health and the environment.

"Without the ability to use this scientific information, EPA would be unable to meet its mission and statutory obligations. This proposal would make it significantly harder for EPA to use the best available science to protect the public, including from harmful emissions of hazardous air pollutants, particulate matter and ozone, exposure to dangerous chemicals in commerce, (and) drinking water contaminated with toxic chemicals such as PFAS or lead," Halpern said.

In one example, the director of the nuclear program for the Natural Resources Defense Council said the proposed rule could undercut standards for radiation exposure because the EPA would no longer be able to rely on research on atomic bomb survivors -- because the data is available to other researchers but not the general public.

Matthew McKinzie, director of the nuclear program for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the rule would exclude important studies about atomic bomb survivors, for example, even though the studies are well-regarded and have been reviewed by other researchers multiple times.

"Implementation of the rule would effectively block the use of such key scientific studies and allow for radiation standards to be either wholly weakened or made functionally meaningless," McKinzie said in his testimony.

The studies McKinzie cites and other health-related studies about issues like smog pollution or chemical exposure often study thousands of individuals monitored for decades, and researchers say they can't publicly release the data because it would not be possible to remove all the personal information or that the research subjects did not consent to make the data public.

Some advocates say the rule isn't actually about transparency but would benefit industry groups who want fewer regulations.

Groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute, and the American Chemistry Council say they support the rule and would work with other stakeholders to maximize transparency while working within limitations like information that legally can't be made public because it includes private health information.

A report released by the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute on Tuesday says the rule is actually more limited than critics say and that the EPA would still be allowed to use research that can't be made publicly available when it is "not feasible" to do so. Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at the institute who attended Tuesday's hearing, said some of the testimony ignored that other laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act require the EPA to use the "best available science" so it could not ignore studies who use data protected by privacy laws.

"Numerous presenters raised concerns that the transparency rule would somehow prevent EPA from using the best available science, and thereby prevent EPA from making rules to protect public health. Nothing could be further from the truth," said Angela Logomasini, a senior fellow at the institute who attended Tuesday's hearing. "The rule explicitly provides exemptions for science that cannot be released because of privacy concerns," Logomasini said, adding "Perhaps some opponents are actually more concerned that data release will undermine their ideological views about regulation."

But critics, including Democratic lawmakers, said the rule was unnecessary and implied that EPA was previously using science that wasn't already vetted by other researchers.

"The proposed rule perpetuates the incorrect notion that the science the EPA relies on is somehow hidden. It is not,” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Or., said in her testimony. “The EPA would be forced to ignore valuable information discovered during their research because it contains confidential information. This would have chilling consequences for the EPA and every person who benefits from clean air and clean water."

The proposed rule is open for public comment until August 16.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- While House Speaker Paul Ryan struggled Tuesday to defend President Donald Trump's performance with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, without criticizing him directly, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor with a laundry list of things he says it’s obvious Congress should do in response to Trump's remarks.

They are, in the order Schumer presented them: Increase sanctions on Russia; demand that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other members of the Trump national security team in Helsinki testify before Congress; stop attacking special counsel Robert Mueller; urge Trump to extradite the 12 indicted Russians; bolster U.S. election security.

“Our Republican colleagues cannot just go 'tsk, tsk, tsk.' They must act if they want to help America,” Schumer said.

That’s a pretty thorough list of the options Congress could take in order to send a message to Trump, the American people and allies around the world. But each measure has a different likelihood of being implemented, based on a number of political and policy-related risks and rewards that each lawmaker would weigh individually.

Here’s a look at what's being discussed.

Stronger sanctions?

Congress relatively recently passed strict new sanctions on Russia which the Trump administration has only reluctantly implemented. Ryan expressed openness to increasing the pressure through sanctions if lawmakers identify new targets.

“What we intend to do is to make sure that they don't get away with it again,” Ryan said during a news conference Tuesday.

And that jibes with a bill from Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., that would impose new sanctions on Russia’s finance, energy and defense sectors if the director of national intelligence determines that the Kremlin has interfered again in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Tuesday expressed support of the bill and the notion in general of imposing more sanctions on Russia.

“By putting restrictions on banks and Russia not doing business with American banks, it's going to do real harm to Russia's economy,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

“That certainly would send a very strong message to the Russians, which is needed to counter what the president said yesterday,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, added.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., had a response that was briefer but to the point: “Sanctions, sanctions, sanctions,” he said.

The question is how Senate leadership feels about bringing such a bill to the Senate floor.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Monday did not rule out new sanctions but did note that Congress had already gotten “dramatic” penalties signed into law, however reluctantly the administration is implementing them.

“Much of what Sen. Schumer’s asking for I think we’ve already done,” Cornyn said.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who expressed openness to additional sanctions, urged reporters to keep their expectations realistic in terms of how quickly they’d see Congress move on such legislation.

“Congress doesn't function in a way where you have an incredibly poor performance by the president in really over the last 10 days and then all of a sudden, the next day pass things,” he said.

The Senate also wants to see the House version of the annual defense policy bill -- the NDAA -- drop a provision that would allow the president to lift sanctions on Russia with very few preconditions. But Corker Tuesday said he wasn’t even aware of that House provision, meaning it’s not really on the Senate’s radar yet.

Testimony?

There is a bipartisan desire to hear from top Cabinet officials on what was said during the private meeting between Trump and Putin.

“I’m calling on Leader McConnell and his leadership team to immediately request a hearing with Secretary of State Pompeo and the rest of the team from Helsinki so we can find out what the hell happened there,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

Corker told reporters that Pompeo might come in to brief members of his committee next week. Pompeo has not yet briefed the panel on the Singapore summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, so the original briefing would have only been on that, but would now include Helsinki, too.

“We need to find out who was giving [Trump] patriotic advice and who was giving him unpatriotic advice,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the committee, said Monday.

Calls for extradition?

Lawmakers have already dismissed out of hand Putin’s offer to have reciprocal interrogation, wherein Russian officials invite Americans to witness them interrogating the 12 newly-indicted Russian operatives in exchange for the same opportunity in the United States. The president had called the offer an “interesting idea.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Cornyn told reporters Monday.

But some senators – including at least one Republican – are urging Trump to demand that Russia extradite the twelve to the United States.

“Ask for the extradition of the 12 criminals that invaded our election process and secondly, to be very strong,” Judiciary chairman Grassley said when asked for his advice to Trump.

“You mess in our election again and there's going to be big consequences.”

But it’s not clear whether Republican leadership will embrace that message. Cornyn yesterday called the suggestion “wishful thinking.”

“Putin’s not going to extradite those intelligence officers,” he added. It remains to be seen whether that dissuades Congress from speaking with one voice urging the president to demand extradition anyway.

Bolstering election security?

Congress also included $380 million in funding in this year’s omnibus spending bill to bolster states’ election infrastructure. But there are additional bills that have been circulating for months that would more directly bolster U.S. election security than imposing additional sanctions after the fact.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Mark Warner, D-Va., and John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced the Honest Ads Act in October 2017, intended to prevent foreign influence in online political ads, as Russia allegedly did in 2016 using platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It would impose public disclosure requirements on online political advertisements similar to those that already exist for TV, radio and satellite ads. A companion bill in the House was sponsored by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Mike Coffman, R-Colo.

Klobuchar and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., also have a separate bill that would streamline cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence agencies and state election agencies.

A congressional aide told ABC that the Klobuchar-Lankford bill has picked up additional Republican sponsors and has “a lot of momentum,” especially after the Helsinki meeting. Both senators have been working with their party’s leadership teams to move the bill forward in the hopes of eventually holding a floor vote.

But the aide said that bill has a “higher likelihood of crossing the finish line” than Honest Ads, which has not picked up any Republicans beyond McCain, who is in his home state of Arizona undergoing cancer treatment. In the meantime, the bill’s sponsors have been urging social media companies to implement its requirements voluntarily.

In a statement released before the Helsinki meeting, Klobuchar urged Trump to tell Putin about congressional efforts to strengthen U.S. election security.

“Bipartisan support in Congress is important but there is no substitute for Presidential leadership and action,” she said.

Other measures?

Another likely measure that is already being discussed, according to several senators, is another nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution to condemn Trump’s remarks in Helsinki, where he questioned U.S. intelligence on Russian election interference and blamed his own country for Russian aggression.

On the House side, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., will introduce a resolution “endorsing” Speaker Ryan's written statement from Monday defending the U.S. intelligence community. She also said Democrats would call for increased funding for grants to states regarding election security, and teased that Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, will introduce his own resolution in the coming days to criticize the president.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., also attempted to offer a motion for the House Judiciary Committee to adjourn a hearing on social media filtering Tuesday in order to go into executive session and discuss Russian threats to the U.S. electoral process.

But as Corker noted, such measures can deliver a message, but not much else.

“Those are nice, you know, and we did that to show support for our NATO allies and for NATO itself, but they don't do anything,” Corker noted of similar resolutions that have already passed the Senate.

Corker wants to see the Senate take up what has become a priority of his: a bill to prevent the president from unilaterally imposing tariffs on other countries on the basis of national security.

But that bill has not previously received the support from Senate leadership needed to bring it up for a vote, and it’s not clear that it would be called up now as a means of responding to Trump’s comments in Helsinki.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Amid a flood of criticism from members of both parties over his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump declined to reverse course Tuesday by instead highlighting the meeting as more productive than his gathering with NATO allies days before.

"While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia," Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. "Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!"

While the president dismissed the criticism as evidence of a biased media, it's not just Democrats who have raised serious alarms as Trump appeared to side with Putin's denials of interference in the 2016 election.

One of Trump's most stalwart defenders, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, tweeted following the summit saying it was "the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately."

Trump instead chose to highlight one of his lone Republican backers Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who said the backlash was instead evidence of "Trump derangement syndrome.”

"Thank you @RandPaul, you really get it!" Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. "'The President has gone through a year and a half of totally partisan investigations - what’s he supposed think?'"

None of Trump's cabinet members have rushed to Trump's defense amid the controversy, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement Monday standing by the Intelligence Community's assessment of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

However, in an attempt to justify the president's performance, the White House notably circulated talking points obtained by ABC News to surrogates and Republican allies on Capitol Hill late Monday evening as the president landed back in Washington.

The talking points seem to contradict what the president said standing alongside Putin, listing the previous times Trump said he "thinks" Russia meddled and one appearance in 2017 when he said, "I'm with our agencies."

The narrative being pushed by the White House runs counter to Trump's own comments just yesterday saying he doesn't "see any reason why" Russia would be interfering in the election, and called Putin's denial of meddling "strong and powerful."

Instead, the White House shared Trump's "real record on Russia" to Republicans "to push back on the false and hysterical claims currently being pushed by some of those on the left and in the media."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Jeff Flake Tuesday slammed President Donald Trump's Helsinki summit performance with Vladimir Putin as "shameful" and "confused,” calling it a "mistake" for him to meet privately with the Russian president.

"If that is what victory looks like, as the White House said, I think we'd all like to know what failure looks like in a summit performance," the Arizona senator said in an interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.

Flake said he is “very concerned” about what the two leaders discussed in their private two-hour meeting Monday in Helsinki, Finland, and wants Trump's national security team to brief federal lawmakers on the discussion

"That was a big mistake to meet alone," Flake said. "If the president is as confused as he seems to be in terms of our relationship [with the Russians] and in terms with what the Russians are capable of, to meet privately with Vladimir Putin is just wrong. So, I'm very concerned. I think that our allies are most concerned, particularly those that border right on Russia."

Trump played into the hands of the Russian rhetoric that NATO is weak, leaving U.S. allies with the impression of "the U.S. being a non-dependable ally for NATO," Flake said.

"Then to have that kind of rhetoric from the president just plays so well into that; it's got to be unnerving for them," Flake said of allied countries.

During a joint news conference with Putin after their private meeting, Trump hedged on whether he agrees with the U.S. intelligence community on its conclusion that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

"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," Trump said.

The comment came just days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence agent on allegations of meddling in the 2016 election that propelled Trump to the White House.

The president's statements also set off a firestorm in Washington, stoking criticism from prominent members of Trump's own party.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Trump's performance in Helsinki was a major setback in the fight against Russian interference in elections around the world.

Sen. John McCain, R-Aria., described the Trump-Putin summit as "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

The Republican head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennesee, said, “the president’s comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover."

Flake said the Senate should require Trump's national security team come to Capitol Hill and provide details on the summit, including what was said in the private meeting between Trump and Putin.

"I think immediately the Senate ought to pass a resolution stating our support of the [U.S.] intelligence community and that we do believe them," Flake said. "We don't believe the denials coming out of Vladimir Putin's mouth."

Lawmakers should also consider ramping up sanctions against Russia and demand that Russia extradite the 12 intelligence agents indicted by Mueller, he added.

Asked by Stephanopoulos whether he believes Putin has compromising information on Trump, Flake said, "I have a hard time believing that."

"But it certainly is the easiest explanation and I think that's why so many have gone to it.”

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ABC News(HELSINKI, Finland) -- In his first interview following a summit and press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, President Donald Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News he thought Putin was "very, very strong" and complained that the "phony witch hunt" into Russia's interference in the 2016 election has driven a "phony wedge" between the two nations.

"Ninety percent of the nuclear power in the world between these two nations, and we've had a phony witch hunt deal drive us apart," Trump said, going on to say he thinks the probe is the biggest impediment to stronger relations. "It's the thing that he told me when he went in. He said, 'What a shame.'"

The president reiterated that Putin strongly denied collusion and also brushed off the idea Russia had compromising information on Trump.

"He said there was no collusion whatsoever. He said it as strong as you can say it. They have no information on Trump," Trump said. "And one thing you know, if they had it, it would have been out."

The president said that although he believes U.S.-Russian relations were at a historic low point just prior to his meeting with Putin, he is now hopeful for cooperative relations going forward.

"It was great today, but I think it was really bad five hours ago," Trump said. "I think we really had a potential problem. Dealing with two nuclear nations. At 90 percent of the nuclear power in the world between these two nations, and we've had a phony witch hunt deal it drive us apart."

In addition to his comments at the press conference, Putin again denied any Russian interference in the U.S. election in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

"Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States -- do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?" Putin said. "This is utterly ridiculous."

Putin also denied to Wallace that his government has "compromising material" on Trump.

"We don't have anything on them," Putin said. "I don't want to insult President Trump when I say this -- and I may come as rude -- but before he announced that he will run for presidency, he was of no interest for us."

In an interview with Russian TV outlet Channel 1, Putin offered compliments of Trump following their summit, saying he was an "interesting conversation partner."

"He is a very qualified person, he knows the material, he listens, he takes in arguments, he keeps his own opinion on some questions," Putin said.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump hedged on whether he agrees with the intelligence community on its conclusion that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election at a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Monday.

"People came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others -- they said they think it's Russia," Trump said. "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."

Trump added that while "I have great confidence in my intelligence people," Putin gave him a very strong denial.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, head of the U.S. intelligence community, reaffirmed his conclusion that Russia had indeed tried to sway the election in a statement published after Trump's remarks.

"We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security," Coats wrote.

Trump later reiterated his support for the intelligence community on Twitter, while adding that diplomacy between Russia and the U.S. must also be a priority.

"As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people,' he tweeted. "However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!"

Former homeland security advisor to Trump and ABC News contributor Tom Bossert, who said he hopes the president did not mean to imply he trusts Putin over his own intelligence officers, agreed with Coats.

"I've seen that intelligence, I believe it, I've concluded that there was Russian meddling," he said.

Bossert said that while he understands why Trump would be defensive on the topic, he believes the president needs to better differentiate between the political attacks against him and the assessments of America's intelligence agencies.

"It is extremely infuriating and frustrating to stand up day after day, as he does, and take questions -- I believe in his view, baseless questions -- that undermine the credibility of his presidency and the legitimacy of the election he fought so hard for," Bossert said. "But that doesn't change the fact on days like today when you're on a world stage and you're the commander in chief of the United States of America, I think you have to put those domestic political frustrations aside and you've got to answer the questions in a way that provides confidence to our intelligence community."

Several Republican lawmakers also weighed in.

“I’ve said a number of times and I’ll say it again: The Russians are not our friends and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said.

Senator Marco Rubio likewise affirmed his support of the intelligence community's findings.

“What the president said today is not accurate," he said. "The intelligence community has assembled probably an unparalleled amount of evidence in regards to the Russian, not just efforts to interfere in 2016, but ongoing efforts to interfere in American society."

House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement saying "the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally."

"There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence," Ryan said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The response from lawmakers to President Trump’s press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin was swift and almost universally negative, with especially critical statements coming from members of Trump’s own party.

Sen, Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: "Putin only understands strength and I did not think this was a good moment for our country."

"I felt like, that everyone who’s dealt with Putin understands fully that the best way to deal with him is through strength and I just felt like the president’s comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover. And I’m disappointed in that," Corker told reporters on Capitol Hill.

"When he had the opportunity to defend our intelligence agencies, who work for him, I was very disappointed and saddened with the equivalency that he gave between them and what Putin was saying," he added.

"They definitely interfered in our election," Corker continued. "That’s not debatable. And again, I just don’t know what it is about the president that he continues to deny that it occurred. I get the feeling, firsthand actually, that sometimes the president cares more about how a leader treats him personally."

Asked how much he thought Putin gained from the encounter, Corker responded: "I think he gained a tremendous amount. Here he has been ostracized on the world stage."

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory, " Sen. John McCain said in a statement.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant," McCain said from Arizona, where he's battling brain cancer.

“I’ve said a number of times and I’ll say it again. The Russians are not our friends and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement, according to his office.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, normally a staunch Trump supporter, tweeted: "President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately."

House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement saying "the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally."

"There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence," Ryan said. "The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., was one of the first members of Congress to issue a written response to the press conference, taking particular issue with Trump’s assertion that both countries are responsible for the deteriorating U.S.-Russia relationship.

“This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs,” Sasse said.

During the 45-minute press conference, Trump said he didn’t “see any reason” why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, despite the unanimous conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community, asserted that there was “zero collusion” between the two governments and called Putin a “good competitor,” which he described as a compliment.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., another consistent Trump critic, called the press conference “shameful.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has lately been muting his criticism of Trump in order to better position himself to accomplish policy goals, didn’t go as far as Flake or Sasse but did say the president should have used the press conference to denounce Russia’s interference.

In a separate tweet, Graham also warned that he would “check the soccer ball for listening devices,” referencing the ball Putin handed Trump during the press conference, and which Trump tossed to his wife, First Lady Melania Trump.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a frequent ally of Trump’s, did not criticize Trump but did restate the facts, which in and of itself was a repudiation of what the president asserted during the press conference.

He added that the U.S. must work to secure all future elections “regardless of what Vladimir Putin or any other Russian operative says.”

Democrats also responded quickly, describing the press conference and the other events of Trump’s Western Europe junket, which also took him to a NATO conference and London, England, in fatalistic terms.

“Starting with the president’s trip to NATO and ending with his shameful performance at today’s press conference, President Trump has strengthened our adversaries while weakening our defenses and those of our allies,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Schumer also mused about why Trump would continue to be so deferential to the Russians, suggesting it might be because Putin has something compromising about Trump that he is hanging over his head.

"Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump," Schumer said.

Putin responded to a question about that during the press conference, calling such a notion "rumors" and saying he didn't know Trump when he visited Russia before becoming president, but he did not outright deny it.

“That press conference was a disgrace,” House Foreign Affairs ranking member Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., wrote in his own statement. “Because of the President’s reckless and disgusting behavior, the entire week has been a disaster for American leadership and our standing in the world.”

Other Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner, whose panel is investigating Russia’s interference in the election, issued their immediate reactions on social media.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, listed several historic locations where previous wartime adversaries surrendered and added the location of the Trump/Putin meeting.

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Chris McGrath/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain issued a damning statement of President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling their joint news conference "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

"The damage inflicted by President Trump's naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake," McCain said in a statement.

The statement about the Putin meeting is just the latest in a string of criticisms the Republican senator has had for Trump during the president's tenure, and McCain touched on the personal traits of Trump's that were exposed in the meeting with Putin.

"President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin," McCain said in the statement. "He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world."

McCain has a history of spats not only with Trump but also with Russia, as the Arizona senator was sanctioned by Putin in 2015. At the time, McCain said that he "couldn't be more proud" of the sanction, which came amid Russia's efforts to annex Crimea.

In his latest statement, McCain warned of how the meeting with Trump will be seen as an inherent approval of the Putin regime.

"It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout -- as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician," he said. "These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin's regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world."

McCain also took issue with the contrast between the praise that Trump had for Putin compared with the "bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain."

"No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant," McCain said. "Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are —- a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain."

The senator's daughter, Meghan McCain, a co-host of ABC's "The View" and a regular Republican political commentator, wrote on Twitter that she was "horrified" by the news conference and reiterated her pride in her father's sanction.

"I don’t have anything quippy to tweet. I’m horrified - and have never been more proud of the fact that Putin hates my father so much he personally sanctioned him on Russia's enemies list," she wrote.

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Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump held a historic meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Finland, using some kind words to describe his budding relationship with the world leader.

The comments that followed the meeting were the most recent in a string of them stemming from Trump’s interactions with heads of state where he turned the tables on existing ties, either reversing a historically poor relationship or making a longstanding friendship unexpectedly uncomfortable.

Here is a rundown of some of the most controversial comments Trump has made in connection to fellow heads of state.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

The G-7 conference ended in early June with something of a war of words between North American neighbors.

After the meeting, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will "not be pushed around" by the United States with its decision to slap tariffs on some imports from Canada and other countries.

"For Canadians who … stood shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers in far-off lands and conflicts from the First World War onward ... it's kind of insulting,” Trudeau said.

Trump, who was on his way to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, responded on Twitter June 9, accusing Trudeau of being duplicitous as well as "dishonest & weak."

He later told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos about the situation in an interview immediately after the North Korea meeting.

"Everybody was happy" at the end of the G-7 conference, Trump said. "And then he [Trudeau] gave out a little bit of an obnoxious thing. I actually like Justin. I think he’s good. I like him but he shouldn't have done that. That was a mistake that’s going to cost him a lot of money."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Trump called the North Korean dictator "a very worthy, smart negotiator, absolutely," while standing alongside Kim in Singapore in June.

"I do trust him, yeah," Trump said in an interview with ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos in Singapore immediately after the summit.

"Maybe in a year you’ll be interviewing and I'll say I made a mistake. It's possible. We’re dealing at a high level. A lot of things can change; a lot of things are possible.

"Over my lifetime I've done a lot of deals with a lot of people and sometimes the people you most distrust turn out to be the most honorable ones and the people that you do trust turn out to be not the honorable ones," Trump said.

"I believe he wants to get it done."

At another point shortly after the summit, Trump praised the North Korean leader again.

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough,” Trump said. “I don't say he was nice or say anything about it. He ran it, few people at that age – you could take one out of 10,000 could not do it.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May

An interview that Trump gave to British newspaper The Sun was published while he was visiting with Prime Minister Theresa May in England, and it added a pinch of awkwardness, given some of his comments.

The Sun reported that Trump insulted May's handling of the Brexit negotiations, the ongoing effort to remove the U.K. from the European Union, saying May has gone "the opposite way" from the tough stance he suggested she take, and the results have been "very unfortunate."

He also said in the interview that he thinks she is "a very good person."

In a joint news conference held hours after the interview was published, Trump said, "I didn't criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister."

"When I saw her this morning, I said, ‘I wanted to apologize.’ She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s only the press,’” Trump said.

Beyond the apology, Trump went on to praise May.

"She will do very well. I think she's a very tough negotiator," he said of May, going on to call her a "very, very smart and determined person ... She left a lot of people in her wake. She's a very smart, very tough, very capable person, and I would much rather have her as my friend than as my enemy, I can tell you."

When asked to further describe their relationship, Trump said, "I would say I give our relationship in terms of grade the highest level of special ... Now especially after these two days... I would say the highest level of special."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

While Trump has said much about Merkel and his relationship with the German chancellor in the past, his most recent high-profile comments were directed at her country and its policies, as opposed to her personally.

During a breakfast meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the recent NATO summit, Trump repeatedly said Germany is "captive to Russia."

"I have to say, I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we're supposed to be guarding against Russia.

"We're supposed to protect you against Russia but they're paying billions of dollars to Russia and I think that's very inappropriate.

The European Union

During an interview with CBS that aired Sunday, July 15, Trump was asked to name the biggest global foe.

The first one he named? The European Union.

"Well I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn't think of the European Union but they're a foe," Trump told CBS.

"Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically. Certainly, they are a foe. But that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive. They want to do well and we want to do well," he said.

After that interview aired, Trump turned to Twitter to paint a rosier picture, saying "we had a truly great Summit that was inaccurately covered by much of the media. NATO is now strong & rich!"

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Trump has praised Putin in the past, including during his presidential campaign. But in his recent comments, he's been focused on his hopes of a good relationship to come.

"I think I'd have a very good relationship with President Putin if we spend time together," Trump said Friday, July 13, during a news conference alongside British Prime Minister May in England. "And I may be wrong. You know, other people have said, ‘It didn't work out.' But I'm different than other people."

"I think that we would have a chance to have a very good relationship with Russia and a very good chance -- a very good relationship with President Putin. I would hope so," Trump said before meeting with Putin in Finland.

During a joint news conference held after their meeting, Trump said the relationship between the United States and Russia -- which he said was at an all-time low -- "changed as of about four hours ago."

Trump noted that he has called Putin "a competitor" in the past but "the word competitor is a compliment."

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ABC News (HELSINKI) -- A(HELSINKI) -- President Donald Trump said he addressed Russia's interference in the U.S. 2016 election and that President Vladmir Putin was "extremely strong" in his denials.

"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," President Trump said, standing at podium side-by-side with the Russian president during a joint press conference Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

He continued: “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

While Putin has long denied Russian involvement and did so again Monday, the U.S. intelligence community has long maintained that Russia did in fact meddle in the U.S. election, and just three days ago, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian government agents for hacking the Democratic Party during the 2016 election.

Trump said Monday that Putin made an “incredible offer” to allow US investigators work alongside Russian investigators.

“He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer,” Trump said.

President Trump said that relations between the two nations were at a historic low point prior to today's meeting but argued that relations have already taken a positive turn as a result of today's diplomatic engagement.

“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that,” President Trump said.

Trump described the conversations as “direct, open, [and] deeply productive,” while Putin called the meeting a “success” and “fruitful.”

Asked if he holds Russia accountable for any specific element of the strained relations between the two nations, Trump said he holds both countries accountable but specifically zeroed in on the ongoing special counsel probe in the US as a “disaster” that has divided the U.S. domestically and for having a damaging impact on US-Russian relations.

“I do feel that we have both made some mistakes,” Trump said. “I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”

“We won that race,” Trump said, referencing his victory over Hillary Clinton. “It's a shame there could be a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. The main thing – we discussed this also – is zero collusion. It has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.”

When a reporter questioned Putin on his continued denials of US election meddling, President Trump jumped in to say "we ran a brilliant campaign, and that's why I'm president.”

Even as he was deeply critical of the special counsel probe, President Trump did not offer any public condemnation of Russia’s meddling in the election.

The two leaders met for a long-anticipated summit Monday, but initially publicly made no mention of thorny issues like election meddling, Syria or Crimea before sitting down for the first meeting, a one-on-one encounter.

The two leaders began the summit by walking quietly into a room in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. Against the backdrop of six U.S. and Russian flags, Putin broke the silence with brief remarks.

But when Trump spoke, he didn't publicly address some of the issues vexing politicians back home, in Europe and the Middle East, such as the federal indictments last week of Russian military intelligence officers, Russia's defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or the annexation of Crimea.

Instead, he started his remarks by congratulating his counterpart on hosting the World Cup.

"I'd like to congratulate you on a really great World Cup, one of the best ever," Trump said. "And for also your team doing so well.

"It was beautifully done," he added, saying he watched the finals.

Trump said they'll be talking about trade, military and China. Among the major topics will be repairing the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, he added.

"We've been not getting along for the past years," Trump said. "We'll have an extraordinary relationship.

"And I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers. It's not a good thing, it’s a bad thing. So we'll be talking about that, among other things."

Putin, who is known to keep world leaders waiting, arrived almost 30 minutes late in Helsinki for the meeting. In his opening remarks, he said the time had come for bilateral relations in "various hotspots in the world."

"There are enough of them that we have paid attention to them," he said.

"I am glad to meet with you on the hospitable soil of Finland," Putin told Trump.

He didn't address some of the more controversial issues, either.

After both leaders spoke, they briefly shook hands.

The pool of reporters shouted several questions about election meddling to Trump after his remarks but he didn't respond.

The leaders then ducked into a private room to start the bilateral meeting with advisers and interpreters.

After two hours of meeting privately, Trump and Putin emerged and then headed to the expanded bilateral meeting and working lunch.

Trump told reporters the private part of the summit had gone well.

"I think it's a good start, a very good start for everybody," he said.

Trump and Putin will hold a news conference after the lunch.

The meeting happened after a week of worldwide anxious anticipation spanning from the United States to Europe to Russia.

Before they met, Trump tweeted, "Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"

Trump has said he hopes to improve relations with Russia but has placed blame for the deteriorated relationship on his predecessor, President Barack Obama, rather than Russian aggression and meddling.

The Russian ministry of foreign affairs tweeted Monday: "We agree."

When asked about his message to Putin during a breakfast at Mantyniemi, the Finnish president's residence, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and first lady Jenni Haukio, Trump simply replied, "We'll do just fine, thank you."

The stakes are high for the summit. Just days before Trump arrived in Helsinki, special counsel Robert Mueller issued indictments on 12 Russian spies for their alleged interference in the 2016 election.

News of action by Mueller added additional pressure on the president to address election meddling and hold Putin accountable for Russian aggression. Monday's meeting loomed large over each leg of the president's tour.

At NATO, allied leaders condemned Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, and British Prime Minister Theresa May said at a news conference with Trump that she welcomed "the strong response from the U.S. on the poisonings in Salisbury."

Trump said election interference, along with Syria, Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and meddling will be among the topics on the table Monday.

“I know you’ll ask will we be talking about meddling. And I will absolutely bring that up. I don’t think you’ll have any, 'Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me.' There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don’t think. But you never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely firmly ask the question," Trump said at Chequers, May's residence, Friday.

It was still unclear if the issues came up during the private meeting.

Kremlin press secretary Dmitri Peskov told reporters before the summit that if Trump brings up interference in the U.S. election, he will "reiterate that Russia did not and could not bear any relation to the matter on which such speculations are centered."

Over the weekend, Trump and his White House advisers tried to downplay the impact of the summit. For the White House, the meeting isn't so much about resolving problems but building a diplomatic bridge between two countries that have not seen worse relations since the Cold War.

Trump himself said he did not have "high expectations" for their talks, and White House national security adviser John Bolton, who took the lead on orchestrating the summit by traveling to Moscow to meet with Putin, said the United States should not expect any deliverables or written agreements, like the joint agreement made by Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June.

"We have asked and the Russians have agreed that it will be basically unstructured. We're not looking for concrete deliverables here," Bolton said Sunday on ABC News’ "This Week." "I think it's very important that the president has a direct one-on-one conversation with President Putin. That's how this is going to start."

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman even said it’s not a "summit" but a "meeting" on NBC's "Meet the Press."

“Listen, and it isn't a summit. I've heard it called a summit. This is a meeting. In fact, it's the first meeting between the two presidents. They've had some pull-asides, one at the G20 in Hamburg and the other at the APEC Ministerial in Da Nang, Vietnam,” Huntsman said. “But this is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation. And I hope it's a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests. This has not happened before.”

Trump went on to call it a summit later in a tweet.

While allied NATO leaders like May were encouraged by Trump’s meeting with Putin, lawmakers at home expressed skepticism before the talks in Finland and even told Trump to cancel their meeting if he could not guarantee a hardline response to election meddling.

"President Trump must be willing to confront Putin from a position of strength and demonstrate that there will be a serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world," Republican Sen. John McCain said in a statement. "If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward."

Concern has grown the president will make concessions with Russia, or come out with nothing much to show for the meeting except handshakes, smiles and photos, particularly as aides have said the president hasn't been keen on studying up ahead of the summit, according to ABC News sources.

"Will I be prepared? I’m totally prepared. I have been preparing for this stuff my whole life," Trump said at a rally in Montana before he left for Europe.

Trump spent the weekend before the summit at Trump Turnberry resort on the coast of Scotland meeting with advisers, tweeting and playing golf.

Early Monday and hours before the meeting, protests broke out in Helsinki calling for human rights and democracy.

It's the first official summit between the presidents of the United States and Russia since 1997 when Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin produced a breakthrough agreement on arms control in Helsinki.



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ABC(WASHINGTON) -- Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page returns to Capitol Hill Monday for a second day of questioning from House lawmakers after Republicans called her testimony "credible" as they search for anti-Trump bias in the handling of the Clinton email and Trump-Russia investigations.

"Lisa Page is a very credible witness and she's doing her best to help us find the truth," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said on Friday, after the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees first interviewed Page.

"I can tell you, in ways I think she's been falsely accused about not being willing to cooperate. We've learned some evidence today that would suggest she's been willing to help, in the spirit of transparency. ... The last thing anyone wants is to be falsely accused. Her willingness to cooperate today speaks well for her."

Democrats, for their part, claimed they had learned little new from Page, one day after a contentious public hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom Page had an extramarital affair and exchanged messages criticizing then-candidate Donald Trump and other politicians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The messages were uncovered by the Justice Department inspector general, who determined in a report that the Hillary Clinton email probe was not impacted by political bias, but said the messages from Page and Strzok - along with some of the decisions of former FBI Director James Comes - impacted the FBI's reputation.

Page is expected to appear on Capitol Hill at 11 am Monday, according to a congressional aide.



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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Scott Pruitt's resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) marked the end of a tumultuous time at the agency, but when it comes to policy the new acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler is not expected to change course.

Wheeler is expected to continue walking back regulations proposed under the Obama administration, many of which President Donald Trump and Pruitt have called an overreach of the EPA's authority.

When it comes to reforming rules intended to combat climate change, Wheeler told The Washington Post that he does believe people have an impact on climate. But when it comes to rewriting regulations for greenhouse gases he will put forward suggestions that stay within the laws passed by Congress.

"I know that there’s a number of senators that would like us to go much further, but of course environmental organizations would love us to go much further," Wheeler told the Post. "But you’re not going to see the EPA, at least under my direction, make up a lot as we go along. We’re going to follow the law that Congress has given us."

The EPA is still working on a replacement for the Clean Power Plan, a policy written by the Obama administration to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It has also submitted a proposed change to a rule to protect bodies of water to the White House, and recently launched an effort to establish new limits for a chemical found in drinking water and groundwater all over the country.

Wheeler said that he wants to "depoliticize" environmental issues in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

He also told the Post he will work closely with career scientists at the agency and work to increase transparency.

Sen. Tom Carper, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee with oversight of EPA, wrote to Wheeler on Friday asking him to "restore the American people's confidence in the agency's mission" by working to increase transparency at EPA. Carper also called for Wheeler to withdraw policy proposals that he called "legally questionable," such as the so-called "secret science" rule that would change what research the EPA is allowed to use when it creates regulations.

"Andrew, you have been granted an enormous challenge and responsibility, but an even greater opportunity," Carper wrote. "The damage Scott Pruitt has done to the Agency will not easily be undone. While you and I have not always agreed, and will not always agree, on every environmental policy matter, it is my hope and expectation that you will carefully consider the lessons of the past as you prepare to chart the Agency’s future."

It is unclear if Trump will nominate a new administrator to take over or how long Wheeler will be running the agency but any nominee would likely face a tough confirmation battle. If Trump nominates Wheeler to be the permanent administrator, he would need to be confirmed by the Senate again.

Some Democrats have vocally opposed Wheeler's nomination as deputy administrator, citing his track record on climate change and previous work as a lobbyist for companies with interests before EPA, including the coal company Murray Energy. When Wheeler's nomination for deputy administrator was up for a vote in April some Democrats even argued that it should be delayed so he could be vetted more thoroughly because it was likely he would take over at EPA if Pruitt resigned.

The EPA said that Wheeler did not lobby EPA on behalf of Murray and that he has recused himself from issues related to his former clients.

Environmental groups, like the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, also say they will continue to fight Wheeler and Trump's agenda at the EPA. Both groups were vocal opponents of Pruitt and launched a campaign calling for him to resign.

"Andrew Wheeler is equally unqualified to serve as the nation’s chief environmental steward," Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director for government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "Like Pruitt, this veteran coal lobbyist has shown only disdain for the EPA’s vital mission to protect Americans’ health and our environment."

There are still several pending investigations into Pruitt's conduct at the agency, including the cost of his often first-class travel, 24/7 security detail, and his living arrangement in a Capitol Hill condo connected to lobbyists.

A spokesman for the EPA inspector general's office said they will still complete the investigations even though Pruitt no longer works for the agency.



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