HELSINKI -- President Donald Trump arrived in Finland on Sunday for a closely watched one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, hours after telling an interviewer that he was going into the meeting today with "low expectations."
Trump sat for the interview Saturday in Scotland, and CBS News released excerpts on Sunday, hours before Trump flew to Helsinki, the Finnish capital.
The president said he had "low expectations. I'm not going with high expectations," and declined to discuss his goals for the meeting, though he said he would update the network about his goals after the meeting has taken place. Trump said such sessions are beneficial and cited his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"Nothing bad is going to come out of it [Helsinki], and maybe some good will come out," Trump said.
Other members of the Trump administration also looked to tone down prospects for today's meeting. Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, tried rebranding the event in an interview on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday from Norway's capital.
"I've heard it called a summit. It's a meeting," he said, adding that the event "is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation, and I hope it's a detailed conversation, about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests."
In a separate interview, John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, said no "concrete deliverables" were anticipated from the "basically unstructured" event.
Trump said in the CBS interview that he had given no thought to asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted last week on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, though he added that "certainly I'll be asking about it." However, their extradition is highly unlikely. The U.S. doesn't have an extradition treaty with Moscow and can't force the Russians to hand over citizens. Russia's constitution also prohibits turning over citizens to foreign governments.
Bolton said it would be "silly" for Trump to demand extradition of the Russians.
"For the president to demand something that isn't going to happen puts the president in a weak position, and I think the president has made it very clear he intends to approach this discussion from a position of strength," Bolton said.
In his CBS interview, Trump said the Democratic National Committee "should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked." According to federal prosecutors, Russian agents first attempted to infiltrate email accounts tied to Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic rival for the presidency, the same day Trump encouraged Russia to produce emails from Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.
"They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too. But -- and this may be wrong -- but they had much stronger defenses," Trump said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said he didn't expect talk of Russian meddling to be on Trump's agenda.
"He has already said that he has asked Putin about meddling, Putin told him he didn't do it, and he believed him," Murphy said on ABC's This Week.
In a series of tweets, Trump blamed the media for inflating expectations for the meeting with Putin.
"No matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough -- that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" Trump said. "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people."
Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican have called on Trump to pull out of today's meeting unless he is willing to make Russian election-meddling the top issue. Huntsman said the summit must go on because Russian engagement is needed to solve some international issues.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said in a statement that "all patriotic Americans should understand that Putin is not America's friend, and he is not the president's buddy."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who recently returned from a visit to Moscow, warned that "the Russians are very prepared to argue on so many issues that they're not in the wrong."
But Trump, who said last week that meeting with Putin may be "the easiest" part of his trip, is banking on his personality to forge a lasting bond with Putin that could improve U.S.-Russia relations and solve some of the world's intractable problems.
Political analysts expect Putin to try to win concessions by playing to Trump's eagerness to one-up President Barack Obama and to reject Washington establishment thinking.
One Russian objective, for instance, has been to win a more accommodating approach from Trump on Russia's intervention in Ukraine, which included the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin claims that the Obama administration fomented the pro-Western revolution in Kiev that year in a bid to weaken Russian influence, and that Russia needed to take over Crimea to protect Russian speakers on the Black Sea peninsula.
"Trump is the ideal partner for a detente without concessions," Alexander Baunov, a foreign-policy specialist at the independent Carnegie Moscow Center think tank, recently wrote. "He's an enemy of the same America that is Russia's adversary."
A top Putin ally in the Russian parliament, Andrei Klimov, described Trump as a pragmatist with whom Moscow can work productively, in contrast to the "academic idealist" Obama who focused on "irrational matters" like promoting liberalism and democracy.
Trump has kept his options open regarding Crimea. Asked last week whether he intends to recognize Crimea as part of Russia when he meets with Putin, Trump blamed the situation on his predecessor.
"That was on Barack Obama's watch," he told reporters. "That was not on Trump's watch. Would I have allowed it to happen? No."
On State of the Union, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he's wary of Trump meeting alone with Putin because the Russian president is a trained KGB agent, and Trump is not known for his preparation.
"Frankly, I think he'll take advantage of this president," Warner said Sunday. "We need other individuals from his administration in the room so we know at least someone will press the Russians on making sure they don't interfere in future U.S. elections."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on State of the Union that it would be pointless for Trump to raise the issue as it's inevitable that Russia will interfere in U.S. elections.
Putin has denied meddling in the election. He has also denied involvement in the poisoning of two Britons with a Soviet-era nerve agent.
Dawn Sturgess and her partner, Charlie Rowley, fell ill on June 30 in southwestern England's Amesbury, a town near the city where Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in March.
On Sunday, her 19-year-old son, Ewan Hope, was quoted in The Sunday Mirror as saying: "I don't share Donald Trump's politics and I'll never be a supporter of his, but I would like him to raise mum's case with the Russian president. We need to get justice for my mum."
Trump and his wife, Melania, were greeted warmly on Sunday in Finland, the final stop on their weeklong trip that began last Tuesday.
Near Trump's hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags. Banners said "Welcome Trump" and "God Bless D & M Trump," and a helicopter hovered overhead.
Chants of "We love Trump, we love Trump" broke out as the president's motorcade passed, and Trump waved.
There were protests elsewhere in Finland on Sunday, but they were aimed at promoting human and sexual rights, democracy and environmental issues. About 1,500 people marched through central Helsinki shouting "Human rights for all!" and "Helsinki calling for Mr. Putin, Helsinki calling for Mr. Trump!" One protester held a sign that read, "Build saunas not war!"
Organizers said the event wasn't aimed at either of the presidents.
Protests were more visible in Scotland, where the Trumps spent the weekend at a golf resort the president owns in Turnberry. A man has been charged in connection with a Greenpeace protest that flew a banner reading "Trump: Well Below Par" close to the golf resort.
Information for this article was contributed by Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville, Jamey Keaten and staff members of The Associated Press; by Anton Troianovski, Philip Rucker, Seung Min Kim and Michael Birnbaum of The Washington Post; by Katie Rogers of The New York Times; and by Ros Krasny, Margaret Talev, Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Justin Sink, Toluse Olorunnipa, Mark Niquette, Sahil Kapur and Ben Brody of Bloomberg News.
A Section on 07/16/2018
Print Headline: Trump set for Putin; summit hopes 'low'