‘Very much counter to the plan’: Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin
He can't listen to anyone. "Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said. “Everyone around Trump” was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. In advance of Monday’s meeting, the second person said, advisers covered everything from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump “made a game-time decision” to handle the summit his way. “I think that the United States has been foolish,” Trump said at one point, referring to tensions with Russia. “I think we’ve all been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office.” In the end, Trump’s performance alongside Putin in the Finnish capital seemed like a tour through his most controversial conspiracy theories, tweets and off-the-cuff musings on Russia — except he did it all while abroad, standing just feet from Putin, the leader of one of America’s greatest geopolitical foes. The spectacle that unfolded in Helsinki also underscored Trump’s eagerness to disregard his own advisers, his willingness to flout the conclusions of his own intelligence community — that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections — and his apparent fear that pressing Putin on the subject might cast doubt on his electoral victory."