Donald Trump is being savagely trolled online for his 'disgusting performance' with Putin
On Wednesday, a reporter asked Donald Trump if he believed that Russia was still targeting the United States. He responded with a clear denial: "Thank you very much. No."
This endorsement of President Putin over his own intelligence services - and Trump's repeated failure to confront him over issues such as Crimea and the Novichok poisonings in the UK - not only raised the question of whether he trusted his spy chief and national security officials, but signalled to some that he was giving Putin free reign to do as he pleased.
Trump's response directly contradicts the statements of the US intelligence services, who have repeatedly warned the 45th President of the United States and the public that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and plan to do so again this year.
Speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee in February, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coates, asserted: "There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts have been successful and views the 2018 midterm US elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations. Frankly, the United States is under attack."
The digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack," he corroborated just three days before Trump was due to meet Putin in Helsinki. "The warning lights are blinking red again."
The people of the internet didn't hesitate to ridicule Trump over his latest - and potentially disastrous - blunder, and it came in meme form, naturally.
In a joint press conference with Putin, the Mail Online reports that Trump stated:
"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. 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."
Just moments earlier, the Russian President had said, "Yes, I wanted [Trump] to win because he spoke of normalisation of Russian-US ties."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders appeared several hours later with yet another inventive rationalisation for Trump's comments. "The President was saying 'no' to answering questions," Sanders alleged. "He does believe they would certainly target US elections again."
This is the latest in Trump's ongoing battle with America's spy agencies - which he once compared to Nazis. In fact, the billionaire property mogul spent his first official day in office at a memorial for the CIA's fallen heroes, where he attacked the press for not reporting the "true" size of the crowd at his inauguration ceremony.