For the second consecutive day, Donald Trump shunned longstanding protocol by criticizing fellow Americans on foreign soil when he lambasted the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief.
On Thursday while in Warsaw, the president criticized America’s intelligence agencies, a former U.S. president (Barack Obama) and his country’s news media. A day later, before departing the house where he is staying in Hamburg, Germany, for the G-20 summit, Trump went after the DNC and John Podesta.
Trump alleged in a tweet that “everyone” at the G-20 is “talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA,” a reference to the organization and Clinton campaign’s decision to decline federal help even as their email servers were hacked and electronic communications were leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The president, despite being on foreign soil, ended his tweet by slapping this moniker on both the DNC and Podesta: “Disgraceful!”
Everyone here is talking about why John Podesta refused to give the DNC server to the FBI and the CIA. Disgraceful!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2017
White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had not responded to an email seeking clarity on who is the “everyone” at the G-20 who has been bringing up the DNC-Clinton campaign email situation.
Trump appeared to be trying to shift some blame for what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded was Russian meddling in the election to the DNC and Clinton campaign just hours before he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin around 3:45 p.m. in Hamburg (9:45 a.m. EDT).
And that much-anticipated meeting, which is mostly overshadowing the rest of the summit of the world’s leading rich and developing countries, also was on Trump’s mind before he departed for the summit venue.
Trump tweeted minutes later that he is looking forward to his slate of one-on-one meetings with other world leaders on Friday, including his first meeting with Putin as president — the summit’s de facto main event.
“Much to discuss,” the president wrote about his session with the Russian president and the other leaders.
Trump set the tone for the Putin meeting on Thursday, using a speech in Warsaw, a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart, and comments with leaders from the dozen countries around the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic seas to criticize Putin’s government.
Trump used his most direct rhetoric yet toward Moscow, urging the Kremlin to “cease its destabilizing activities.” He called out Russia for its support for “hostile regimes” like Syria and Iran.
And he sent a clear message to Putin when he declared that his administration intends to challenge Russia as a supplier of natural gas to central and eastern Europe.
“The United States will never use energy to coerce your nations,” Trump told the Baltic, Black and Adriatic leaders. It was his second veiled jab at Russia of the day — which came even as he gave Moscow some cover over meddling in the U.S. election.
U.S. lawmakers from both parties are pressing Trump to let Putin know he will not tolerate further Russian meddling in American elections.
“President Trump must have the courage to raise the issue of Russian interference in our elections directly with President Putin, otherwise the Kremlin will conclude he is too weak to stand up to them,” House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a Thursday statement. “That would be a historic mistake, with damaging implications for our foreign policy for years to come.”
White House officials have declined to say just what Trump intends to discuss with Putin. Last week, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, White House national security adviser, told reporters there is no set agenda for the much-anticipated meeting.
“It's really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about,” McMaster said.
It is often difficult to predict what Trump will say or do, and his hot-and-cold messages about Russia on Thursday only made prognostications about his message for the Russian president that much tougher.
Further clouding the meeting are the federal and congressional probes into potential nefarious ties between Trump’s associates and Russian officials during the campaign — as well as whether the president obstructed justice by firing FBI Director James B. Comey and pressing Comey and other officials to drop parts of the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
“I think it was Russia … and I think it could have been other countries,” Trump said Thursday when asked in Warsaw if he believes Moscow meddled in the U.S. election. He later added unnamed “other people” to that list.
“A lot of people interfere” in elections across the globe, he said, adding that when it comes to just who interfered in the U.S. election “nobody really knows for sure.”