Colombia’s President-elect Says There Are No Miracles, Will Tackle Graft

Colombian President-elect Ivan Duque on Monday admitted he faces great challenges when he takes office next month and said while he is not a miracle worker, he will do all he can to push the nation forward and reduce the gulf between rich and poor.

Duque, a right-winger who will replace President Juan Manuel Santos on Aug. 7, received accreditation from Colombia’s electoral council confirming him as the legitimate winner of last month’s election.

Standing alongside his vice president, Marta Lucia Ramirez, Duque said he would strengthen security in the nation, protect community leaders threatened by crime gangs, reduce cultivation of illicit crops and bolster the economy.

“We will not be inferior to the challenge that history gives us, we will not be inferior to the motivation that we have to work intensely,” Duque said during the ceremony as family and colleagues cheered.

“Here there will be no miracles, there will be hard work and if we unite Colombia around these common goals, we will turn them into the greatest opportunity in our history.”

Duque, 41, a business-friendly protégé of hard-line former President Alvaro Uribe, said he would present a series of anti-corruption policy measures to congress on the day he is sworn in to office.

Duque has promised to unite the Andean nation after years of antagonism over a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia (FARC) that ended the group’s part in five decades of conflict but angered many voters who want to see former rebel commanders jailed for crimes.

Duque has promised to impose tougher punishments on rebels for war crimes.

He faces significant difficulties when he takes office. The economy remains weak; drug trafficking gangs have moved into areas once controlled by the FARC; and more than 800,000 Venezuelan migrants have crossed into Colombia, looking for food and work.

He has promised to bolster the $324 billion economy, keep investors happy by cutting business taxes, support the oil and coal sectors – top exports – and help manufacturing.

But he needs to show he is tackling inequality, corruption and inadequate social services if he wants to avoid creating opportunities for the left in future, possibly as soon as 2022, analysts have said.

A one-term senator, Duque worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, served as a consultant at the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and as adviser to Santos when he was finance minister in former President Andres Pastrana’s government.

Head of Mexico’s Ruling Party Resigns after Record Loss

The head of Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) stood down on Monday after the party’s record defeat in the July 1 presidential election, reducing the long-dominant force of Mexican politics to a fraction of its former strength.

Battered by corruption scandals, surging violence and poor economic growth, the centrist PRI was trounced by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a veteran leftist and staunch critic of the establishment who has pledged a major shakeup of politics.

The PRI, which has ruled Mexico for 77 of the last 89 years, secured just 16.4 percent of the vote and saw its representation in Congress cut by about three-quarters.

Announcing his departure at a news conference, PRI leader Rene Juarez said the scale of the loss meant the party would have to take a hard look at itself.

“The future transformation of the PRI should be the size of the current defeat,” said Juarez, who only took over in May. By then, the polls showed the PRI was heading for a huge reverse.

Claudia Ruiz Massieu, the party’s secretary general, will take over the PRI leadership. A niece of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ruiz Massieu served as minister for tourism and later foreign minister under outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Peru Declares State of Emergency on Colombian Border

Peru has declared a 60-day state of emergency on its border with Colombia in order to guarantee security in a region rife with drug trafficking.

President Martin Vizcarra on Monday said the measure was “because there are security problems” created by Colombian citizens crossing the border and there was a need to “reestablish the state’s presence.”

Police and armed forces used five helicopters and three planes in joint operations with their Colombian counterparts in the first patrol in the area, Vizcarra said.

“More than 50 people were arrested, most of them Colombians involved in illicit drug trafficking,” he said.

The region in which the state of emergency has been declared is the Amazon basin province of Putumayo, separated from Colombia by the river of the same name, a tributary of the Amazon.

“We’re firm, we’re clear, we’re going to defend our sovereignty and our territory,” added Vizcarra.

US Reporter Forcibly Removed Prior to Trump-Putin Press Conference

A man who identified himself as a working journalist was escorted out a room where a joint press conference in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to be held. Sam Husseini had received press credentials for the event through U.S.-based magazine The Nation. Husseini was holding up a sign that read, “Nuclear weapons test ban.”

Remarks by President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki



Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                           July 16, 2018







Presidential Palace

Helsinki, Finland



5:10 P.M. EEST


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  Distinguished Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: Negotiations with the President of the United States Donald Trump took place in a frank and businesslike atmosphere.  I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round of negotiations.  


We carefully analyzed the current status — the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship; key issues of the global agenda.  It’s quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationship are going through a complicated stage, and yet those impediments — the current tension, the tense atmosphere — essentially have no solid reason behind it.  


The Cold War is a thing of past.  The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of the remote past, is a vestige of the past.  The situation in the world changed dramatically.  


Today, both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges.  Those include a dangerous maladjustment of mechanisms for maintaining international security and stability, regional crises, the creeping threats of terrorism and transnational crime.  It’s the snowballing problems in the economy, environmental risks, and other sets of challenges.  We can only cope with these challenges if we join the ranks and work together.  Hopefully, we will reach this understanding with our American partners.  


Today’s negotiations reflected our joint wish — our joint wish with President Trump to redress this negative situation and bilateral relationship, outline the first steps for improving this relationship to restore the acceptable level of trust, and going back to the previous level of interaction on all mutual interests issues.


As major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security.  And it made it vital — and we mentioned this during the negotiations — it’s crucial that we fine-tune the dialogue on strategic stability and global security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We submitted our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions.


We believe it necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.  This includes the extension of the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation Treaty.  It’s a dangerous situation with the global American anti-missile defense system; it’s the implementation issues with the INF treaty; and, of course, the agenda of non-placement of weapons in space.


We favor the continued cooperation in counterterrorism and maintaining cybersecurity.  And I’d like to point out specifically that our special services are cooperating quite successfully together.  The most recent example is their operational cooperation within the recently concluded World Football Cup.


In general, the contacts among the special services should be put to a system-wide basis — should be brought to a systemic framework.  I recall — I reminded President Trump about the suggestion to reestablish the working group on antiterrorism.


We also mentioned a plethora of regional crises.  It’s not always that our postures dovetail exactly.  And yet, the overlapping and mutual interests abound.  We have to look for points of contact and interact closer in a variety of international fora.  


Clearly, we mentioned the regional crisis; for instance, Syria.  As far as Syria is concerned, the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of this successful joint work.  Russia and the United States apparently can act proactively and take — assume the leadership on this issue, and organize the interaction to overcome humanitarian crisis, and help Syrian refugees to go back to their homes.


In order to accomplish this level of successful cooperation in Syria, we have all the required components.  Let me remind you that both Russian and American military have acquired a useful experience of coordination of their action, established the operational channels of communication which permitted to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and in the ground.


Also, crushing terrorists in the southwest of Syria — the south of Syria — should be brought to the full compliance with the Treaty of 1974 about the separation of forces — about separation of forces of Israel and Syria.  This will bring peace to Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also to provide security of the state of Israel.


Mr. President paid special attention to the issue during today’s negotiations, and I would like to confirm that Russia is interested in this development, and this will act accordingly.  Thus far, we will make a step toward creating a lasting peace in compliance with the respective resolutions of Security Council, for instance, the Resolution 338.  


We’re glad that the Korean Peninsula issue is starting to resolve.  To a great extent, it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation.


You know, we also mentioned our concern about the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA.  Well, the U.S. — our U.S. counterparts are aware of our posture.  Let me remind you that thanks to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran became the most controlled country in the world; it submitted to the control of IAEA.  It effectively ensures the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program and strengthens the nonproliferation regime.


While we discussed the internal Ukrainian crisis, we paid special attention to the bona fide implementation of Minsk Agreements by Kiev.  At the same time, the United States could be more decisive in nudging the Ukrainian leadership and encourage it to work actively on this.  We paid more attention to economic ties and economic cooperation.  It’s clear that both countries — the businesses of both countries are interested in this.


The American delegation was one of the largest delegations in the St. Petersburg economic forum.  It featured over 500 representatives from American businesses.  We agreed — me and President Trump — we agreed to create the high-level working group that would bring together captains of Russian and American business.  After all, entrepreneurs and businessmen know better how to articulate this successful business cooperation.  We’ll let them think and make their proposals and their suggestions in this regard.


Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia when the American elections, and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process.


Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together.  For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cybersecurity, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.


And clearly, it’s past time we restore our cooperation in the cultural area, in the humanitarian area, as far as — I think you know that recently we hosted the American congressmen delegation, and now it’s perceived and portrayed almost as a historic event, although it should have been just a current affairs — just business as usual.  And in this regard, we mentioned this proposal to the President.


But we have to think about the practicalities of our cooperation, but also about the rationale — the underlying logic of it.  And we have to engage experts on bilateral relationship who know history and the background of our relationship.  The idea is to create an expert council that would include political scientists, prominent diplomats, and former military experts from both countries who would look for points of contact between the two countries, that would look for ways on putting the relationship on the trajectory of growth.  


In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full-scale meeting because previously we only had a chance to talk briefly on international fora.  We had a good conversation with President Trump, and I hope that we start to understand each other better.  And I’m grateful to Donald for it.


     Clearly, there are some challenges left when we were not able to clear all the backlog.  But I think that we made a first important step in this direction.  


     And in conclusion, I want to point out that this atmosphere of cooperation is something that we are especially grateful for to our Finnish hosts.  We’re grateful for Finnish people and Finnish leadership for what they’ve done.  I know that we’ve caused some inconvenience to Finland, and we apologize for it.


     Thank you for your attention.  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  


     Thank you.  I have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries.  We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue.  It went very well.  


     Before I begin, I want to thank President Niinistö of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit.  President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did.  


     I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup.  It was really one of the best ever and your team also did very well.  It was a great job.  


     I’m here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy.  From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.  A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world.


     The disagreements between our two countries are well known, and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.  But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we are going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests.


     Too often, in both recent past and long ago, we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table.  We’ve also seen the benefits of cooperation.  In the last century, our nations fought alongside one another in the Second World War.  Even during the tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked  much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue.  


But our relationship has never been worse than it is now.  However, that changed as of about four hours ago.  I really believe that.  Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage.  But that would not accomplish anything.  As President, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct.   


     Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia affords the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.  I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.  As President, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.


     During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections.  I felt this was a message best delivered in person.  We spent a great deal of time talking about it, and President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly — because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.  


     We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation.  I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearization of North Korea.  And after today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem.  They’re going to work with us, and I appreciate that commitment.


     The President and I also discussed the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.  Both Russia and the United States have suffered horrific terrorist attacks, and we have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace.  


     Last year, we told Russia about a planned attack in St. Petersburg, and they were able to stop it cold.  They found them.  They stopped them.  There was no doubt about it.  I appreciated President Putin’s phone call afterwards to thank me.  


     I also emphasized the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East.  


     As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one.  Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.  I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS.  We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area.


     We also agreed that representatives from our national security councils will meet to follow up on all of the issues we addressed today and to continue the progress we have started right here in Helsinki.


     Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process.  But we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought.  Our expectations are grounded in realism but our hopes are grounded in America’s desire for friendship, cooperation, and peace.  And I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that also.  


     President Putin, I want to thank you again for joining me for these important discussions and for advancing open dialogue between Russia and the United States.  Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia, the United States, for the greater good of all.  


And this was a very constructive day.  This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together.  It’s in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation, and we have agreed to do so.  


     I’m sure we’ll be meeting again in the future often, and hopefully we will solve every one of the problems that we discussed today.  


So, again, President Putin, thank you very much.


     MODERATOR:  (As interpreted.)  Distinguished Presidents, now the journalists would have a chance to ask two questions, two sets of question each.  First, the Russian journalist will ask the question.  Please give your affiliation.  


     Q    (As interpreted.)  Good afternoon, my name is Alexei Meshkov, Interfax information agency.  I have a question to President Trump.  During your recent European tour, you mentioned that the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline makes Europe the hostage of Russia.  And you suggested that you could free Europe from this by supplying American LNG.  But this cold winter actually showed that the current model — current mechanism of the supply of fuel to Europe is quite viable.  At the same time, as far as I know, U.S. had to buy even Russian gas for Boston.  


I have a question.  The implementation of your idea has a political tinge to it, or is this a practical one?  Because there will be a gap formed in the supply and demand mechanism, and first it’s the consuming countries who will fall into this gap.


     And the second question: Before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary, a rival, and yet you expressed hope that you would be able to bring this relationship to a new level.  Did you manage to do this?


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Actually, I called him a competitor.  And a good competitor he is.  And I think the word “competitor” is a — it’s a compliment.  I think that we will be competing, when you talk about the pipeline.  I’m not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interest of Germany or not, but that was a decision that they made.  We’ll be competing — as you know, the United States is now, or soon will be — but I think it actually is right now — the largest in the oil and gas world.  


     So we’re going to be selling LNG and we’ll have to be competing with the pipeline.  And I think we’ll compete successfully, although there is a little advantage locationally.  So I just wish them luck.  I mean, I did.  I discussed with Angela Merkel in pretty strong tones.  But I also know where they’re all coming from.  And they have a very close source.   So we’ll see how that all works out.


     But we have lots of sources now, and the United States is much different than it was a number of years ago when we weren’t able to extract what we can extract today.  So today we’re number one in the world at that.  And I think we’ll be out there competing very strongly.


     Thank you very much.


    PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  If I may, I’d throw in some two cents.  We talked to Mr. President, including this subject as well.  We are aware of the stance of President Trump.   And I think that we, as a major oil and gas power — and the United States, as a major oil and gas power as well — we could work together on regulation of international markets, because neither of us is actually interested in the plummeting of the prices.  


And the consumers will suffer as well, and the consumers in the United States will suffer as well, and the shale gas production will suffer.  Because beyond a certain price bracket, it’s no longer profitable to produce gas, but nor we are interested in driving prices up because it will drain juices, life juices, from all other sectors of the economy, from machine building, et cetera.  So we do have space for cooperation here, as the first thing.


     Then, about the Nord Stream 2, Mr. President voiced his concerns about the possibility of disappearance of transit through Ukraine.  And I reassured Mr. President that Russia stands ready to maintain this transit.  Moreover, we stand ready to extend this transit contract that is about to expire next year, in case — if the dispute between the economic entities dispute will be settled in the Stockholm Arbitration Court.


     MS. SANDERS:  (Inaudible) goes to Jeff Mason, from Reuters.


     Q    Thank you.  Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia.  Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?  And if so, what would you consider them — that they are responsible for?  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Yes, I do.  I hold both countries responsible.  I think that the United States has been foolish.  I think we’ve all been foolish.  We should have had this dialogue a long time ago — a long time, frankly, before I got to office.  And I think we’re all to blame.  I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia.  And we’re getting together.  And we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation, in terms of stopping — because we have to do it.  Ultimately, that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.  


     But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.  I think that the probe is a disaster for our country.  I think it’s kept us apart.  It’s kept us separated.  There was no collusion at all.  Everybody knows it.  People are being brought out to the fore.  


So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign.  And they’re going to have try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.  That was a clean campaign.  I beat Hillary Clinton easily.  And frankly, we beat her — and I’m not even saying from the standpoint — we won that race.  And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it.  


     People know that.  People understand it.  But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion.  And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.  We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.  


     Q    For President Putin, if I could follow up as well.  Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided?  And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I’m going to let the President answer the second part of that question.  But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election — which, frankly, they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans.  


     We won the Electoral College by a lot — 306 to 223, I believe.  And that was a well-fought — that was a well-fought battle.  We did a great job.  


And, frankly, I’m going to let the President speak to the second part of your question.  But just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time: There was no collusion.  I didn’t know the President.  There was nobody to collude with.  There was no collusion with the campaign.  And every time you hear all of these — you know, 12 and 14 — it’s stuff that has nothing to do — and frankly, they admit, these are not people involved in the campaign.


     But to the average reader out there, they’re saying, “Well, maybe that does.”  It doesn’t.  And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories or, in one case, the FBI said there was no lie.  There was no lie.  Somebody else said there was.  


     We ran a brilliant campaign, and that’s why I’m President.  Thank you.  


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted).  As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one, if you take this.  Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?  He defends the interests of the United States of America, and I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation.  


     We do have interests that are common.  We are looking for points of contact.  There are issues where our postures diverge, and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences; how to make our effort more meaningful.


We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries.  We should be guided by facts.  Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion?  This is utter nonsense.


     Just like the President recently mentioned — yes, the public at large in the United States had a certain perceived opinion of the candidates during the campaign, but there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it.  That’s the usual thing.  


     President Trump, when he was a candidate, he mentioned the need to restore the Russia-U.S. relationship, and it’s clear that a certain part of American society felt sympathetic about it, and different people could express their sympathy in different ways.  But isn’t that natural?  Isn’t it natural to be sympathetic towards a person who is willing to restore the relationship with our country, who wants to work with us?  


     We heard the accusations about the Concord country [sic].  Well, as far as I know, this company hired American lawyers.  And the accusations doesn’t — doesn’t have a fighting chance in the American courts.  So there’s no evidence when it comes to the actual facts.  So we have to be guided by facts and not by rumors.


     Now, let’s get back to the issue of these 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia.  I don’t know the full extent of the situation, but President Trump mentioned this issue, and I will look into it.


     So far, I can say the following, the things that — off the top of my head: We have an acting — an existing agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, an existing treaty that dates back to 1999, the Mutual Assistance on Criminal Cases.  This treaty is in full effect.  It works quite efficiently.  


On average, we initiate about 100, 150 criminal cases upon request from foreign states.  For instance, the last year, there was one extradition case, upon the request, sent by the United States.  So this treaty has specific legal procedures.  


     We can offer that the appropriate commission headed by Special Attorney Mueller — he can use this treaty as a solid foundation, and send a formal, an official request to us so that we would interrogate — we would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes.  And our law enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States.


     Moreover, we can meet you halfway; we can make another step.  We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller — we can let them into the country and they will be present at this questioning.  


But in this case, there is another condition.  This kind of effort should be a mutual one.  Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States whom we believe are — who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia, and we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.  


For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case.  Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia.  They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country.  They were transferred to the United States.  They sent a huge amount of money — $400 million — as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Well, that’s their personal case.  It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.


     So we have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions.  So we have an interest of questioning them.  That could be a first step, and we can also extend it.  Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.


     Q    And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  Yes, I did.  Yes, I did.  Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.  


I think there can be three questions from the Russian pool.


Russia Today, you have the floor.


Q    (As interpreted.)  (Speaks Russian.)  Thank you so much.  And good evening to everyone.  My name is Ilya Petrenko, RT TV Channel.  


(Speaks English.)  In English, Mr. President, would you please go into the details of possibly any specific arrangements for the U.S. to work together with Russia in Syria, if any of these kind of arrangements were made today or discussed?


(As interpreted.)  (Speaks Russian.)  And my question to President Putin, in Russian: Since we brought up the issue of football several times, I ask — I use the football language.  Mr. Pompeo mentioned that, when we talk about the Syrian cooperation, the ball is in the Syrian court.  Mr. Putin, in the Russian court, is it true?  And how would you use this fact — the having the ball?


PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I guess I’ll answer the first part of the question.  We’ve worked with Israel long and hard for many years, many decades.  I think we’ve never — never has anyone, any country been closer than we are.  President Putin also is helping Israel.  And we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu, and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria having to do with the safety of Israel.  So in that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel, and Israel will be working with us.  So both countries would work jointly.


And I think that, when you look at all of the progress that’s been made in certain sections with the eradication of ISIS, we’re about 98 percent, 99 percent there — and other things that have taken place that we’ve done, and that, frankly, Russia has helped us with in certain respects.  But I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.  


One little thing I might add to that is the helping of people — helping of people.  Because you have such horrible, if you see — and I’ve seen reports and I’ve seen pictures, I’ve seen just about everything.  And if we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and — on a humanitarian basis.  And that’s what the word was, really, a humanitarian basis.  I think that both of us would be very interested in doing that, and we are.  We will do that.


Thank you very much.


Q    Excuse me, but, for now, no specific agreements?  For instance, between the militaries?


PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, our militaries do get along.  In fact, our militaries, actually, have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years.  But our militaries do get along very well, and they do coordinate in Syria and other places.


Okay, thank you.


PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  Yes, we did mention this.  We mentioned the humanitarian track of this issue.  Yesterday, I discussed this with French President, Mr. Macron.  And we reached an agreement that, together with European countries, including France, we will step up this effort.  


On our behalf, we will provide military cargo aircraft to deliver the humanitarian cargo.  And today, I brought up this issue with President Trump.  I think there is plenty of things to look into.  


     The crucial thing here is that a huge amount of refugees are in Turkey, in Lebanon, in Jordan — in the states that border — are adjacent to Syria.  If we help them, the migratory pressure upon the European states will drop; it will be decreased many-fold.  And I believe it’s crucial from any point of view — from humanitarian point of view, from the point of view of helping people, helping the refugees.  


And in general, I agree, I concur with President Trump: Our military cooperate quite successfully together.  They do get along, and I hope they will be able to do so in future.  And we will be keep working in the Astana format — I mean Russia, Turkey, and Iran — which I informed President Trump about.  


     But we do stand ready to link these efforts to the so-called “small group” of states so that the process would be a broader one, it would be a multi-dimensional one, and so that we will be able to maximize our fighting chance to get the ultimate success in the issue of Syria.


     And speaking about the having the ball in our court in Syria, President Trump has just mentioned that we’ve successfully concluded the World Football Cup.  Speaking of the football, actually — Mr. President, I’ll give this ball to you, and now the ball is in your court.  All the more that the United States will host the World Cup in 2026.  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  We do host it.  And we hope we do as good a job.  That’s very nice.  That will go to my son, Barron.  We have no question.  In fact, Melania, here you go.  (Laughter.)    




     MS. SANDERS:  The final question from the United States will go to Jonathan Lemire, from the AP.


     Q    Thank you.  A question for each President.  President Trump, you first.  Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016.  Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.  What — who — my first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe?  


     My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016?  And would you warn him to never do it again?  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  So let me just say that we have two thoughts.  You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server.  Why haven’t they taken the server?  Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?  I’ve been wondering that.  I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media.  Where is the server?  I want to know, where is the server?  And what is the server saying?  


     With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.  My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia.  I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.  


I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.  But I have — I have confidence in both parties.  I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server.  What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC?  Where are those servers?  They’re missing.  Where are they?  What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails?  Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone.  I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily.  I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.  


     So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.  And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people.  I think that’s an incredible offer.  


Okay?  Thank you.


PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  I’d like to add something to this.  After all, I was an intelligence officer myself, and I do know how dossiers are made up.  Just a second.  That’s the first thing.  


Now, the second thing: I believe that Russia is a democratic state, and I hope you’re not denying this right to your own country.  You’re not denying that United States is a democracy.  Do you believe the United States is a democracy?  And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of dispute an only be delivered by a trial by the court, not by the executive — by the law enforcement.  


     For instance, the Concord company that was brought up is being accused — it’s been accused of interference.  But this company does not constitute the Russian State.  It does not represent the Russian State.  And I brought several examples before.  


     Well, you have a lot of individuals in the United States — take George Soros, for instance — with multibillion capitals, but it doesn’t make him — his position, his posture — the posture of the United States?  No, it does not.  Well, it’s the same case.  There is the issue of trying a case in the court, and the final say is for the court to deliver.  


     We’re now talking about the private — the individuals, and not about particular states.  And as far as the most recent allegation is concerned about the Russian intelligence officers, we do have an intergovernmental treaty.  Please, do send us the request.  We will analyze it properly and we’ll send a formal response.  


And as I said, we can extend this cooperation but we should do it on a reciprocal basis, because we would await our Russian counterparts to provide us access to the persons of interest for us whom we believe can have something to do with intelligence services.


     Let’s discuss the specific issues, and not use the Russia and U.S. relationship as a loose change — the loose change for this internal political struggle.  


     Q    My question for President — for President Putin.  Thank you.  Two questions for you, sir.  Can you tell me what President Trump may have indicated to you about officially recognizing Crimea as part of Russia?


     And then secondly, sir, does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  (Laughs.)  President Trump and — well, the posture on President Trump on Crimea is well known, and he stands firmly by it.  He continued to maintain that it was illegal to annex it.  We — our viewpoint is different.  We held a referendum in strict compliance with the U.N. Charter and the international legislation.  For us, this issue — we (inaudible) to this issue.


     And now to the compromising material.  Yeah, I did heard these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow.  


Now, distinguished colleague, let me tell you this: When President Trump was at Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow.  I treat President Trump with utmost respect.  But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.


     Well, let’s take St. Petersburg Economic Forum, for instance.  There were over 500 American businessmen — high-ranking, high-level ones.  I don’t even remember the last names of each and every one of them.  Well, do you remember — do you think that we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them?  Well, it’s difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this.


     Well, please, just disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  It would have been out long ago.  And if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days — and I was in Brussels watching it — it was a disgrace to the FBI, it was a disgrace to our country, and, you would say, that was a total witch hunt.


     Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you.



Venezuela Pleads Guilty in US to Role in PDVSA Bribe Scheme

A former official at a Venezuelan state-run electric company pleaded guilty on Monday to U.S. charges that he participated in a scheme to solicit bribes in exchange for helping vendors win favorable treatment from state oil company PDVSA.

Luis Carlos De Leon Perez, 42, pleaded guilty in federal court in Houston to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to conspiring to commit money laundering, the U.S. Justice Department said.

He became the 12th person to plead guilty as part of a larger investigation by the Justice Department into bribery at Petroleos de Venezuela SA that became public with the arrest of two Venezuelan businessmen in December 2015.

The two men were Roberto Rincon, who was president of Tradequip Services & Marine, and Abraham Jose Shiera Bastidas, the manager of Vertix Instrumentos. Both pleaded guilty in 2016 to conspiring to pay bribes to secure energy contracts.

De Leon is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 24. His lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

De Leon was arrested in October 2017 in Spain and was extradited to the United States after being indicted along with four other former Venezuelan officials on charges they solicited bribes to help vendors win favorable treatment from


An indictment said that from 2011 to 2013 the five Venezuelans sought bribes and kickbacks from vendors to help them secure PDVSA contracts and gain priority over other vendors for outstanding invoices during its liquidity crisis.

Prosecutors said De Leon was among a group of PDVSA officials and people outside the company with influence at it who solicited bribes from Rincon and Shiera. De Leon worked with those men to then launder the bribe money, prosecutors said.

De Leon also sought bribes from the owners of other energy companies and directed some of that money to PDVSA officials in order help those businesses out, prosecutors said.

Among the people indicted with De Leon was Cesar David Rincon Godoy, a former general manager at PDVSA’s procurement unit Bariven. He pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Others charged included Nervis Villalobos, a former Venezuelan vice minister of energy; Rafael Reiter, who worked as PDVSA’s head of security and loss prevention; and Alejandro Isturiz Chiesa, who was an assistant to Bariven’s president.

Villalobos and Reiter were, like De Leon, arrested in Spain, where they remain pending extradition, the Justice Department said. Isturiz remains at large.

Trump Declines to Back US Intel on Russia Meddling

Donald Trump, standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, has declared he cannot see any reason to believe Moscow meddled in the election that led to him becoming U.S. president in 2016.

Every major U.S. intelligence agency has concluded there was such interference by Russia during the election and the matter is the focus of a major federal investigation that has targeted not only Russians, but members of Trump’s election campaign staff.

“President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said of his query to Putin on Monday about the issue. “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”  

Putin said he told Trump during their talks that “the Russian state never interfered and does not plan to interfere in the internal American electoral process.”

Trump informed reporters at a news conference in Finland’s presidential palace that he spent a “great deal of time” addressing the Russian meddling issue.

The U.S. president said he did not directly criticize his Russian counterpart over that issue or any other on which Washington and Moscow have significant differences.

American politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as former U.S. intelligence officials and diplomats, began sharply criticizing Trump’s remarks, even before the president had boarded Air Force One for the flight back home.

Hours later, on the trip back to Washington, Trump tweeted he has “GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” He added, “However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past. …”

​Leaders optimistic

Both leaders characterized their talks as having gone well.

“Our expectations are grounded in realism, but our hopes are grounded in America’s desire for friendship, cooperation and peace,” Trump said. “And I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that, also.”

The two presidents spent more than two hours speaking face to face with only their translators present. That discussion was followed by wider talks involving aides.

“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago,” the U.S. president declared at the news conference.

Continuing investigation

The Monday meeting came three days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of meddling in the election to help Trump win the White House.

Putin on Monday, alongside Trump at the news conference, invited Mueller’s investigators to visit Russia.

The Russian leader also suggested Mueller send a request to Russian authorities concerning those indicted in America.

“Our law enforcement is perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States,” Putin said.

Russia has no extradition treaty with the United States, so it is unlikely it would turn the suspects over to the United States to stand trial.

The fresh indictments had prompted a number of U.S. senators, all but one of them Democrats, to request Trump cancel his summit with Putin.

At the news conference, Putin was asked whether his government had compromising information on the U.S. president — a reference to the so-called Steele dossier that contains unverified salacious information about one of Trump’s visits to the country as a businessman.

“I was an intelligence officer myself, and I do know how dossiers are made up,” replied Putin. He added that it is “utter nonsense” to imagine that Russia tries to collect compromising material on every important American business figure who visits the country.

During his week in Europe, Trump was combative with traditional U.S. allies — beginning at a NATO summit in Brussels, where he chastised European leaders for not spending more on defense.

He put himself in the middle of a domestic political controversy in London, where he told a tabloid newspaper that Prime Minister Theresa May had ignored his advice about how to pursue Britain’s exit from the European Union. He also stated Boris Johnson, who had quit May’s Cabinet as foreign minister over disagreement with her Brexit plan, “would be a great prime minister.” 

Italy Allows Ships With Hundreds of Migrants to Dock in Sicily

Hundreds of migrants aboard two border patrol ships were allowed to disembark in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo early Monday after a half dozen European countries promised to take in some of them, rather than have Italy process their asylum claims alone.

After two days at sea and a very long night, the 450 migrants aboard the Italian ship Monte Sperone and the British naval vessel Protector finally disembarked at dawn. They had been picked up from an overcrowded boat that left Libya on Friday. Among them were 128 unaccompanied minors.

The ships, one operated by EU border agency Frontex and the other by Italy’s tax police, were given permission to bring the mainly Eritrean and Somali migrants into port only after other European Union countries agreed to accept more than half of them, ending a diplomatic standoff that had left them stuck at sea.

Roberto Ammatuna, the mayor of Pozzallo, said he does not expect that the migrants can be moved for a few days. He said many are suffering from scabies and that there are many minors. He said it may be necessary to wait a few more days before they are transferred to other European countries or other holding centers in Italy.

As the migrants disembarked, at least eight suspected people-smugglers were driven away in police cars.

The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “Today we can say that for the first time migrants are landing in Europe” after France, Malta, Germany, Spain and Portugal each agreed to take in 50 of the 450 migrants who landed at Pozzallo.”

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who initially closed Italy’s ports to the migrants, said “Italy is no longer Europe’s refugee camp; it is a political victory,” adding that “firmness and consistency pay off.” He stressed the need for Libya to be recognized as a safe port for migrants.

Speaking in Moscow where he attended the World Cup soccer final, Salvini said Italy would discuss with its European partners the need to legitimately rescue, save and assist everyone, but then to take them back to where they left from.

The European Commission said it shared the sense of urgency voiced in a letter on migrants from Prime Minister Conte to European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The commission also welcomed the six EU member states that have decided to take in some of the migrants.

Tens of Thousands Welcome Croatia Home After World Cup Final

In an outburst of national pride and joy, Croatia rolled out a red carpet and staged a euphoric heroes’ welcome for the national team on Monday despite its loss to France in the World Cup final.

Tens of thousands of people wearing national red-and-white checkered colors and waving Croatian flags poured into the streets in the capital Zagreb to greet the players, many coming to the city from other parts of the country.

The joyful, singing crowd crammed the central squares or lined up along the route where the players passed in an open bus, greeting the fans along the way and signing autographs.

Police said about 100,000 people came out in central Zagreb and as many along the route. The players’ bus traveled for hours, often stopping when it was blocked by the crowds.

Fans honking car horns, waving and shouting “Bravo! Bravo!” welcomed the bus as it slowly left the airport. The inscription at the front read: “Fiery heart, the pride of Croatia!” in reference to the name “The Fiery” as the team is dubbed at home.

As the bus went by, fans followed on bicycles or on foot, waving. Large players’ photos were displayed along the way amid a cacophony of noise and cheers.

Earlier, Croatian air force jets escorted the plane carrying the team from Russia as it entered the country’s air space and flew over Zagreb.

“Champions! Champions!” roared the crowds as the players came out of the plane to a red carpet on the tarmac at Zagreb airport.

The country of four million people has been gripped in euphoria since its team beat England to reach its first World Cup final, where Croatia lost to France 4-2 on Sunday.

The success has been described as the biggest in Croatia’s sporting history, boosting national pride and sense of unity in the country that fought a war to become independent from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Now a member of the European Union, Croatia’s economy remains weak and people have been leaving the country looking for a more secure future elsewhere.

“I can’t even begin to explain what this has meant for Croatian unity,” President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told The Associated Press in Moscow on Sunday. “I hope that this … will boost the country’s economic development and bring new jobs and young people back to the country.”

Grabar-Kitarovic said Croatia, despite its size, has managed to make a difference in sports, along with science and culture.

“I’m so proud not only of our football team, I’m so proud of our nation,” she said.

Croatia’s state railway company halved ticket prices so fans could travel to Zagreb, while city authorities said public transportation would be free on Monday.

State TV urged citizens to come out and enjoy “the historic moment” of the players’ return, while other media described the players as “our heroes.”