HELSINKI — The U.S. relationship with Russia “has never been worse,” President Donald Trump said Monday as he prepared to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He blamed that relationship on what he called a “Rigged Witch Hunt” investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a series of tweets Monday, Trump complained about the FBI investigation and blamed President Barack Obama for not stopping Russian attempts to meddle in the vote.
“President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it,” Trump said. “When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by Strzok!”
Peter Strzok is the former FBI agent whose anti-Trump text messages have prompted congressional investigations into political bias at the FBI.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted.
Russian state-run news and propaganda sites quickly seized on the news, with Kremlin-controlled Sputnik News reporting that Trump had “harshly criticized Washington’s policy toward Moscow.”
Trump arrived in Helsinki on Sunday for his first standalone summit meeting with Putin, with a variety of world issues — Ukraine, Syria, Iran and North Korea — likely on the agenda.
The two presidents are scheduled to meet one-on-one — with no one other than official translators in the room — for 90 minutes on Monday. Trump and Putin will then have a larger meeting with other U.S. and Russian officials, and end the day with a joint press conference.
Asked what he will say to Putin Monday, Trump said, “We’ll do just fine.”
More: What to expect from Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki
But the meeting also comes just four days after the Justice Department announced indictments of 12 Russian intelligence agents for a campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. Those agents broke into Democratic Party email servers, stole tens of thousands of messages, and leaked them on Russian-controlled web sites.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Trump and Putin “are quite good at talking,” but that Russia needs to stay vigilant given Trump’s call for a military buildup by NATO.
He said Putin would deny any attempt to disrupt U.S. elections.
“Everything that happens, all these investigations and so on — this is an internal affair of the United States,” Peskov told the state-run broadcaster Russia Today. “We are puzzled with many aspects of these investigations in the part that concerns us and our country, but let’s leave it behind the brackets.”