Weekend Politics: Trump And Putin, NATO, U.K.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The White House says President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin next week is going on as scheduled, despite indictments announced by the Justice Department yesterday. Ron Elving is NPR’s senior Washington editor and correspondent. He joins me now to talk about that and more political news. Morning, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The Justice Department says 12 Russian intelligence officers carried out a sustained cyberattack during the 2016 presidential race on the Democratic National Committee, on the Clinton campaign, state election systems and more. But the White House says calls to cancel the Trump-Putin meeting are misplaced. How does that work?

ELVING: Well, those calls are coming from Democrats primarily but also from Senator John McCain, of course, prominent Republican. Yet the meeting with Putin seems to be every bit as important to the president as the NATO summit or his visit to Great Britain. Let’s be clear – as these indictments made it clear, this was not a small-scale or a casual operation. It was not meddling, as some have called it. This was a concerted effort by Russian officials, by the Putin regime to disrupt and interfere with the American election, specifically designed to disrupt the Democrats and defeat Hillary Clinton. Now, the White House response has been that this list of 12 indictments on Friday did not name any Americans, does not indict anyone in the Trump operation. And that is true, Renee. But it also left those doors open. There may be more to come.

MONTAGNE: News of the indictments hit just as Trump was rolling up to Windsor Castle to meet Queen Elizabeth and after a less than smooth meeting, to say the least, with NATO leaders.

ELVING: Yeah, the NATO meeting was really two meetings – the one we saw on TV with Trump attacking various allies and others and saying outlandish things about them and one that was conducted when the cameras were not present, which seems to have been far more congenial. Now, near the end, the President questioned whether we needed to have NATO at all. And then he said everything was going to be fine, and the meeting was a total success. Then it was on to Great Britain for his somewhat awkward photo op with the Queen and an even more awkward news conference with the prime minister, Theresa May,…

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