Asked whether he believes his own intelligence agencies, which say that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States election, or Mr. Putin, who denies it, Mr. Trump refused to say, but he expressed doubt about whether Russia was to blame.
“They think it’s Russia,” he said. “I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Mr. Trump raised the matter of Russian electoral meddling, the two leaders said at the news conference, and Mr. Putin reiterated his denial of Russian involvement.
Asked directly whom he believes, Mr. Trump changed the subject to what he said was misconduct by Democrats during the campaign.
Mr. Putin took a more transactional approach: “As to who is to be believed, as to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or that I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America and I defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests in common and we are looking for points of contact.”
[Mark Landler on the norm-shredding president.]
The president’s ambivalence, after the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence agents over the election hacking, and after the findings of congressional committees, represents a remarkable divergence between Mr. Trump and the American national security apparatus.
Mr. Putin said: “President Trump mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections. I had to reiterate things I said several times: that the Russian state has never interfered, and is not going to interfere, in internal American affairs, including the election process.”
He offered to have Russian intelligence agencies work with their American counterparts to get to the bottom of the matter.
“What he did is an incredible offer,” Mr. Trump said. “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.
Mr. Coats, the intelligence director, appeared to offer a different take from his boss’s after the news conference. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” he said in a statement, “and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
In a tweet later in the day, Mr. Trump wrote: “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ 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!”
Back home, some Republicans were taking another view
Republican leaders were largely silent after Mr. Trump’s news Mr. Putin, but a scattering of Republicans were aghast.
“I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful,” Jeff Flake, the retiring Arizona senator, said on Twitter.
Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, joined in. “This is bizarre and flat-out wrong,” he said. “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.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “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. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”
Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian-minded Republican from Michigan, weighed in more tepidly, but with eyebrows arched: “A person can be in favor of improving relations with Russia, in favor of meeting with Putin, and still think something is not right here,” he wrote on Twitter.
Democrats were not so circumspect.
Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts called Mr. Trump’s performance a “national embarrassment.”
And John O. Brennan, who was C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, spoke of impeachment: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
[The Trump-Putin session left veteran news anchors agape, writes Michael M. Grynbaum.]
Donald Who? Trump wasn’t on Russia’s radar, Putin says
In a feisty 30-minute interview with Mr. Wallace on Fox News, Mr. Putin denied that his nation interfered with American elections, dismissed concerns about the deaths of his political opponents and said he had no compromising materials on President Trump. The former businessman, he said, “was of no interest for us” before he ran for president.
“There’s plenty of rich persons in the United States,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Wallace during an interview taped on Monday in Helsinki. “He was in the construction business. He organized the beauty pageants. But no, it would never occur to anyone that he would think of running for president.”
Mr. Putin found himself pressed by the Mr. Wallace on several sensitive topics. At one point, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor tried to hand the Russian leader a copy of the indictment brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, against 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democratic Party emails in 2016.
Mr. Putin declined to accept the document.
In the interview’s most pointed exchange, Mr. Wallace — whose late father, Mike Wallace, was famed for his interviews of dictators and other celebrities on “60 Minutes” — asked point-blank why “so many of the people that oppose Vladimir Putin end up dead or close to it?”
“First of all,” Mr. Putin said, “all of us have plenty of political rivals. I’m pretty sure President Trump has plenty of political rivals.”
“But they don’t end up dead,” Mr. Wallace rejoined.
“Well, haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?” Mr. Putin said. “Have you forgotten about — well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King? What — and what happens to the clashes between police and, well, civil society, and some ethnic groups? Well, that’s something that happens on the U.S. soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.”
At several points, Mr. Putin used false equivalencies and blatant mistruths to avoid questions. When Mr. Wallace asked about a video released by Mr. Putin’s government showing a nuclear missile hitting an area of Florida close to Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Putin simply denied the claim.
“There was not a caption saying Florida,” he said.
“You can see it on the map,” Mr. Wallace pointed out.
“It couldn’t be seen on the map,” Mr. Putin insisted. “Just take a closer look, and don’t try to scare your population with make-believe threats.” — Michael M. Grynbaum
Commiseration from a fellow president
In his interview with Mr. Hannity on Fox News, Mr. Trump once again denounced the investigation into Russian political meddling. “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,” he said.
Mr. Putin was sympathetic, he said.
“It’s the thing that he told me when he went in,” Mr. Trump said. “He said ‘What a shame.’ He felt it was very hard for me to make a deal because of, you know, all of this nonsense.”