Trump’s comments alongside Putin criticized by both parties as ‘disgraceful,’ ‘treasonous’ and ‘shameful’
The joint press conference took place after the two leaders met alone – without advisers or staff members – for over two hours.
President Trump, when asked directly by an Associated Press reporter to condemn Russia's attack on the 2016 election, instead praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial, attacked the FBI and went on a rant about missing emails belonging to his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia who interfered in our election, Trump told reporters gathered following a one-on-one meeting with Trump at a summit in Helsinki, Finland, just moments after Putin himself admitted he wanted Trump to win. "I will tell you President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial."
Instead of criticizing Russia or Putin, Trump instead unloaded about Clinton's emails and questioned the FBI's motives in its investigation of her email server.
Trump's comments were widely criticized by both Republicans and Democrats. Former CIA director John Brennan, an outspoken critic of Trump who served under Barack Obama, blasted the president's comments as "treasonous" and asked how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff John Kelly "can continue in their jobs."
"I thought that there was nothing Donald Trump could say that would shock me, but I was wrong," Brennan told MSNBC's Brian Williams. "Even when the press gave him an opportunity to hold Russia accountable for anything, he chose to talk about Hillary Clinton, about his election, about servers."
Here are more highlights from the Trump-Putin summit, the leaders' press conference and the aftermath.
Clinton mocks Trump on Twitter
Clinton had tweeted Sunday, the final day of the World Cup in Russia, to question which team Trump would play for as he met with Putin.
She replied Monday evening: "Well, now we know."
New York Daily News releases cartoon sketch of Trump shooting Uncle Sam
The cartoon — which shows Trump holding Putin's hand — references a comment Trump made as a presidential candidate in 2016, when he said he could shoot someone on New York's Fifth Avenue and not lose voters.
Trump tweets from Air Force One
During his flight back from Finland on Air Force One, Trump took to Twitter in what appeared to be an attempt at damage control to say he has "great confidence" in his intelligence agencies.
Trump added: "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!
McCain: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory’
In a blistering statement issued following Trump's joint press conference with Putin, former Republican presidential nominee John McCain called it "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," McCain, who is recovering from brain cancer treatment and surgery in Arizona, said in the statement. He added that Trump was "unable" and "unwilling" to stand up to Putin.
"[Trump] and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choose to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press," McCain added. "No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant."
McCain wasn't the only Republican lawmaker to criticize Trump's comments. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake called the president's performance "shameful," while Michigan Rep. Justin Amash said "something is not right here." McCain's close friend, South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, wrote on Twitter that it was a "missed opportunity" to hold Putin accountable for Russia's attack on our elections.
In the Philadelphia area, lawmakers from both parties were deeply critical of the president.
Intelligence chief Dan Coats counters Trump on Russian meddling
Responding to Trump's decision to question the findings of the U.S. intelligence community on Russia's interference in the 2016 election, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said his agency provided "unvarnished and objective intelligence" and has "been clear" in its assessments.
"The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers," Coats said in a statement. "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 off our national security."
Media reaction to Trump’s performance: ‘Disgraceful’ and ‘disgusting’
Critics from both sides of the political aisle were quick to slam Trump for caving to both Putin and Russian aggression on the world stage, including a host from the president favorite's show.
Abby Huntsman, a co-host on Fox & Friends and the daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, said Trump comments amounted to throwing the United States "under the bus."
"In 25 years of working counterintel for this government, I never thought that I would sit here and watch a U.S. president castigate and denigrate the U.S. intelligence community … standing alongside the leader of an adversarial country," Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI, said on MSNBC.
CNN host Anderson Cooper had a more blunt assessment of Trump's comments: "You've been watching perhaps the most disgraceful performances by an American president in front of a Russian leader that I've ever seen."
Fox Business host Neil Cavuto also didn't hold back, calling the comments Trump made standing beside Putin "disgusting."
"A U.S. president on foreign soil talking to our biggest enemy, or adversary, or competitor… is essential letting the guy get away with it, and not even offering a mild criticism," Cavuto said. "That sets us back a lot."
Trump again denies collusion, attacks Mueller probe
Trump used the press conference to again deny that his campaign colluded with Russia to defeat Clinton, and called special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling, which just produced 12 new indictments against Russia intelligence officials on Friday, "a disaster for our country."
"There was no collusion. I didn't know the president [Putin]. I didn't know anyone to collude with," Trump said. "We ran a brilliant campaign, and that's why I am president."
Putin doubled-down on Trump's denial of collusion with Russia during the election, calling claims made by U.S. intelligence services that Russia worked to help Trump defeat Clinton "utter nonsense."
Putin denies interference after 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted
The joint press conference took place after the two leaders met alone — without advisers or staff members — for more than two hours in Helsinki, longer than the 90 minutes initially scheduled. In addition to a discussion of topics ranging from trade to nuclear weapons, the subject of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign came up, according to both leaders.
"The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including election process," Putin said, via an interpreter. "Any specific material, if such things arise, we are willing to analyze together."
The denial comes just days after the release of more indictments stemming from Mueller's investigation, which allege that 12 Russian intelligence officers hacked the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign, and released emails under the names DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, with the intention of impacting the results of the 2016 presidential campaign.
Despite having been briefed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the new indictments last week, Trump again referred to Mueller's investigation as a "rigged witch hunt" in a Monday morning tweet that was praised by the Russian foreign ministry and blasted by both Democrats and Republicans.
"We've had a power indictment of Russian intervention in our election in 2016 from the Mueller investigation. We've had the president's own director of national intelligence saying that that meddling continues today and the light is blinking red, and yet instead of confronting Mr. Putin, the president is embracing him while trashing the investigators, picking fights with out allies and blaming the United States for tensions with Russia," Tony Blinken, who served as former president Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor and deputy secretary of state, said on CNN. "It really is the world turned upside-down."
Germany: We can no longer fully rely on the White House
Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign minister, told the Funke newspaper group on Monday that Europe could no longer rely on the United States after Trump called the European Union a "foe" on trade.
"To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe," Mass said, according to Reuters. "Europe must not let itself be divided however sharp the verbal attacks and absurd the tweets may be."
Staff writer Michael Boren contributed to this article.