President Donald Trump has arrived in Finland 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 on Monday with “low expectations”.
On the way to meet a leader who has cracked down on the press in his country, Trump tweeted that the US news media is the “enemy of the people” and complained that “No matter how well I do at the Summit” he’ll face “criticism that it wasn’t good enough”.
Trump also said in the interview that he had given no thought to asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 US presidential election.
But after being given the idea by his interviewer, Trump said “certainly I’ll be asking about it” although extradition is high unlikely.
Trump flew to Finland from Scotland. He and his wife, Melania, spent the weekend at a golf resort Trump owns in Turnberry.
He was returning to the White House after Monday’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.
Near Trump’s hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 mostly male pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags.
Big 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.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said it would be “pretty silly” for Trump to ask Putin to hand over the indicted 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 a separate interview.
Trump told CBS News that he was going into the Helsinki summit with “low expectations. I’m not going with high expectations”.
He declined to discuss his goals, but said such sessions are beneficial and cited his historic 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.
He described the European Union as a “foe”, particularly on trade.
“I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,” Trump said, adding that “you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe”.
He said Russia is a foe “in certain respects” and that China is a foe “economically … but that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive”.
Trump has been reluctant to criticise Putin over the years and has described him as a competitor in recent days.
Trump sat for the interview Saturday in Scotland and CBS News released excerpts on Sunday, hours before Trump flew to Helsinki.
From aboard Air Force One, Trump called the US news media “the enemy of the people” and complained that he will face criticism regardless of the summit outcome.
“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!” he tweeted.
Trump also said: “Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people.”
Trump and Putin have held talks twice before. Their first meeting came last July while both attended an international summit and lasted more than two hours, well over the scheduled 30 minutes.
The leaders also met last autumn during a separate summit in Vietnam.
Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling, along with Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics.
Putin has denied meddling in the election.