Washington: Donald Trump claimed victory on Sunday after his trip to Europe, describing a new era of co-operation with Russia including plans for a joint cyber security unit to protect against election hacking.
In his first public comments on his meeting with Vladimir Putin at last week’s G20 summit in Hamburg, Mr Trump said he had “strongly pressed” the Russian President on allegations of Kremlin meddling in the US election, but that it was now “time to move forward in working constructively with Russia”.
Mr Trump wrote on Twitter: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded… and safe.”
His announcement provoked immediate disbelief from critics that he could consider working with the country accused of orchestrating last year’s cyber attacks in an effort to swing the outcome of the presidential vote.
Marco Rubio, who lost out on the Republican nomination to Mr Trump last year, was among those who voiced concerns about working with Mr Putin.
“While reality and pragmatism requires that we engage Vladimir Putin, he will never be a trusted ally or a reliable constructive partner,” he said.
“Partnering with Putin on a ‘cyber security unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘chemical weapons unit’.”
Former defence secretary Ash Carter said it harked straight back to the days of the Soviet Union. “When confronted with something they’ve done wrong, ask for US intelligence. Old trick, propose a working group – in this case on cyber,” he told CNN.
“But this is like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary. It’s they who did this.”
Republican senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, told NBC’s Meet the Press: “It’s not the dumbest idea I have ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”
Mr Trump delivered his verdict in customary bombastic style after returning home from Hamburg, where he met world leaders – using a slew of Twitter messages to declare victory and pour scorn on “fake news” and his political opponents.
“The G20 summit was a great success for the US. Explained that the US must fix the many bad trade deals it has made,” he wrote.
It marks a now familiar style of Trumpian politics in which America’s President bypasses traditional media by offering his own analysis direct to his public.
Mr Trump’s trip to Europe garnered mixed reviews at home.
While some lauded a presidential vision of Western values delivered during a speech in Warsaw, others said the G20 demonstrated a growing gulf between an isolationist America and the rest of the world on trade and climate change.
The biggest moment of Mr Trump’s second foreign trip was his meeting with Mr Putin, which came amid continuing speculation about whether the US President’s campaign colluded with Russia in efforts to swing last year’s election.
On Saturday this took a further twist when Mr Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump jnr, said that he, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met a Russian lawyer last year.
Telegraph, London, with Reuters