Trump-Putin meeting: Edited transcript of Helsinki press conference

What the two said to the media after their one-on-one meeting behind closed doors

US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin shake hands during their joint press conference. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin shake hands during their joint press conference. Photograph: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

 

Donald Trump met one-on-one with Russia’s Vladimir Putin behind closed doors in Helsinki on Monday. The following are highlights of the press conference that followed, with Putin’s remarks interpreted by a translator:

Putin’s opening remarks:

Negotiations . . . took place in a frank and businesslike atmosphere. I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round of negotiations.

It’s quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationship is going through a complicated stage and yet those impediments – the current tension, the tense atmosphere – essentially have no solid reason behind it. The cold war is a thing of past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of remote past, is a vestige of the past.

The situation in the world changed dramatically.

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Today’s negotiations reflected our joint wish ... to redress this negative situation in the bilateral relationship, outline the first steps for improving this relationship to restore the acceptable level of trust and go back to the previous level of interaction on all mutual-interest issues.

As major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security.

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We have to look for points of contact and interact closer in a variety of international forums. Clearly we mentioned the regional crisis, for instance Syria. As far as Syria is concerned, the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of this successful joint work.

Russia and the United States apparently can act proactively and take leadership on this issue and organise the interaction to overcome humanitarian crisis and help Syrian refugees to go back to their homes.

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We’re glad that the Korean peninsula issue is starting to resolve. To a great extent, it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation.

We also mentioned our concern about the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. Well, the US, our US counterparts are aware of our posture.

Let me remind you that thanks to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran became the most controlled country in the world. It submitted to the control of IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. It effectively ensures the exclusively peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear programme and strengthens the nonproliferation regime.

While we discussed the internal Ukrainian crisis, we paid special attention to the bona-fide implementation of Minsk agreements by Kiev.

At the same time, the United States could be more decisive and nudging the Ukrainian leadership and encourage it to work actively on this.

We paid more attention to economic ties and economic co-operation.

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Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere in internal American affairs, including the election process.

Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyse together. For instance, we can analyse them through the joint working group on cyber security, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.

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Trump’s opening remarks:

We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue. Went very well.

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I’m here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.

A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia but it is good for the world. The disagreements between our two countries are well-known and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.

But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we’re going to have to find ways to co-operate in pursuit of shared interests. Too often in both recent past and long ago, we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table.

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But our relationship has never been worse than it is now.

However, that changed, as of about four hours ago.

I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything.

As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct.

Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia afford the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.

I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.

As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.

During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections.

I felt this was a message best delivered in person. I spent a great deal of time talking about it and President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it and he has an interesting idea.

We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation.

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The president and I also discussed the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism. Both Russia and the United States have suffered horrific terrorist attacks and we have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace.

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As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one.

Co-operation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.

I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against Isis. We have just about eradicated Isis in the area.

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Photograph: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images
Photograph: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty Images

Trump is asked, having earlier said the US was to blame for bad relations with Russia, if he holds Russia accountable for anything

Trump: Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.

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But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the [Mueller] 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 [in the 2016 election]. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign.

And they’re gonna have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her.

And I’m not even saying from the standpoint ... we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion and it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.

We have 90 per cent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.

Both are asked why should Trump believe Putin over election interference. And whether Putin would consider extraditing 12 officials indicted last week by a US grand jury

Trump: Well, I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question. But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans. We won the electoral college by a lot: 306 to 223, I believe.

And that was a well-fought, that was a well-fought battle. We did a great job. And frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. But just to say it one time again and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president.

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Putin: As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one – if you take this – where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?

He defends the interests of the United States of America. And I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests that are common.

We are looking for points of contact. There are issues where our postures diverge and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences, how to make our effort more meaningful.

We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries.

We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that definitively proves that collusion? This is utter nonsense.

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Now let’s get back to the issue of this 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia. I don’t know the full extent of the situation, but President Trump mentioned this issue and I will look into it.

So far, I can say the following: the things that are off the top of my head. We have an acting, an existing agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, an existing treaty, that dates back to 1999, the mutual assistance on criminal cases. This treaty is in full effect. It works quite efficiently.

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He can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal and official request to us so that we would interrogate, we would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes, and our enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States.

Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr Mueller, we can lead them into the country and they will be present for this questioning.

But in this case, there’s another condition. This kind of effort should be a mutual one. Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate and that they would question officials including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States, whom we believe have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia. And we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.

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Putin is asked if he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election and if he directed any officials to help him win.

Putin: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the US Russia relationship back to normal.

I think there were three questions from the Russian pool. Russia Today, you have the floor.

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Trump is asked who he believes on Russian election interference: the US intelligence agencies or Putin. Also asked if he would denounce what happened in 2016

Trump: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the [Democratic National Committee] server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?

I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?

With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.

My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. 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. But I really do want to see the server but I have confidence in both parties.

I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC?

Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.

I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.

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 and what he did is an incredible offer.

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. Okay? Thank you.

Putin: I’d like to add something to this. After all, I was an intelligence officer myself and I do know how dossiers are made up. Just a second. That’s the first thing. Now the second thing.

I believe that Russia is a democratic state and I hope you’re not denying this right to your own country. You’re not denying that United States is a democracy. Do you believe the United States is a democracy?

And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion and this kind of dispute can only be delivered by a trial, by the court, not by the executive, by the law enforcement.

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Putin is asked what Trump said to him about officially recognising Crimea as part of Russia. Also whether the Russian government has any compromising material on Trump or his family.

Putin [chuckles]: The posture of President Trump on Crimea is well known and he stands firmly by it. He continues to maintain that it was illegal to annex it. We – our viewpoint is different. We held a referendum in strict compliance with the UN Charter and international legislation.

For us, this issue, we put unintelligible to this issue.

And now to the compromising material.

Yeah, I did heard these rumours that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr Trump when he was visiting Moscow.

Our distinguished colleague, let me tell you this.

When President Trump visited Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect. But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.

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Trump: And I have to say if they had it, it would have been out long ago, and if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days and I was in Brussels watching it, it was a disgrace to the FBI, it was a disgrace to our country. And you would say that was a total witch hunt. Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.