Trump unfazed by broad condemnation of Putin summit, says it went 'even better' than meeting with NATO allies

Unbowed by the broad condemnation of his extraordinary embrace of a longtime US enemy, President Donald Trump declared today that his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin went "even better" than his meeting with NATO allies last week in Brussels.

The tweeted defence came a day after Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election to his benefit, and he seemed to accept Putin's insistence that Moscow's hands were clean.

Trump's reference to his NATO performance carried an edge, too, since the barrage of criticism and insults he delivered there was not generally well-received.

He dismissed it all with a new attack on an old target: the news media.

He said his NATO meeting was "great" but he "had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!"

In fact, the reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics.

"Shameful," ''disgraceful," ''weak," were a few of the comments.

Trump’s failure back up claims from US intelligence agencies came as he met President Putin in Helsinki. Source: 1 NEWS

Makes the US "look like a pushover," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

As criticism mounted, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Trump would speak today about the Helsinki meeting.

On Capitol Hill, top Republican leaders said they were open to slapping fresh sanctions on Russia but showed no signs of acting any time soon.

"Let's be very clear, just so everybody knows: Russia did meddle with our elections," said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"What we intend to do is make sure they don't get away with it again and also to help our allies."

In the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials to appear before Congress and tell exactly what happened during Trump's two-hour private session with Putin.

Schumer also urged the Senate to take up legislation to boost security for US elections and to revive a measure passed earlier by the Judiciary Committee to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.

But minority Democrats have few tools to push their priorities.

In the House, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi planned a vote today in support of the intelligence committee's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Senators had floated a similar idea earlier, but The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said sanctions may be preferable to a nonbinding resolution that amounts to "just some messaging exercise."

Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the first step was to get Pompeo to appear, "hopefully" next week.

Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important US competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

In Finland’s capital the US President said there’s no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote. Source: Breakfast

His remarks, siding with a foe on foreign soil over his own government, was a stark illustration of Trump's willingness to upend decades of US foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns.

A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party's world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any acknowledgement of Russia's election involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"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.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.

His skepticism drew a quick formal statement — almost a rebuttal — from Trump's director of national Intelligence, Dan Coats.

"We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security," Coats said.

Fellow GOP politicians have generally stuck with Trump during a year and a half of turmoil, but he was assailed as seldom before as he returned home Tuesday from what he had hoped would be a proud summit with Putin.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona was most outspoken, declaring that Trump made a "conscious choice to defend a tyrant" and achieved "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who rarely criticizes Trump, stressed there was "no question" that Russia had interfered.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul emerged as one of the president's few defenders from his own party.

He defended Trump's skepticism to CBS News today citing the president's experience on the receiving end of "partisan investigations."

Back at the White House, Paul's comments drew a presidential tweet of gratitude. "Thank you @RandPaul, you really get it!" Trump tweeted.

In all, Trump's remarks amounted to an unprecedented embrace of a man who for years has been isolated by the US and Western allies for actions in Ukraine, Syria and beyond.

And it came at the end of an extraordinary trip to Europe in which Trump had already berated allies, questioned the value of the NATO alliance and demeaned leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May.

In Helsinki, Putin said he had indeed wanted Trump to win the election — a revelation that might have made more headlines if not for Trump's performance — but had taken no action to make it happen.

"Yes, I wanted him to win because he spoke of normalization of Russian-US ties," Putin said.

"Isn't it natural to feel sympathy to a person who wanted to develop relations with our country? It's normal."

The controversy is being hailed as a propaganda victory for the Russian President. Source: 1 NEWS



Hawaii volcano boat tours to continue after lava bomb causes injuries

Hawaii tour boat operators plan to continue taking visitors to see lava, but will follow the Coast Guard's revised policy and stay farther away after an explosion caused molten rock to barrel through the roof of a vessel, injuring 23 people.

The Coast Guard now prohibits all vessels from getting closer than 984 feet from where Kilauea volcano's lava oozes into the sea.

Moku Nui Lava Tours Captain Kanoa Jones says not running the tours would only withhold income from local restaurants and other businesses dependent on tourism.

His boat was not involved in Monday's incident off the coast of the Big Island, which seriously injured a woman in her 20s.

Jones said an evening boat tour left for the ocean-entry site and it was business as usual.

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Woman survives 250-foot car plunge off California cliff, stranded on remote beach for a week

A self-described beachcomber says it was her luckiest find yet: A woman who survived a 250-foot car plunge off a cliff and a week stranded on a remote California beach.

"We freakin' love that beach and we're so glad she's alive," Chelsea Moore said today as she described the afternoon last Saturday when she and her husband found 23-year-old Angela Hernandez of Portland.

Hernandez had been driving to her sister's home in Lancaster, near Los Angeles, on July 6 when a small animal crossed in front of her, causing her to swerve and lose control of her car, she wrote from her hospital bed yesterday in a Facebook account.

"The only thing I really remember after that was waking up," Hernandez wrote.

"I was still in my car and I could feel water rising over my knees. My head hurt and when I touched it, I found blood on my hands."

Hernandez said she broke a window of her car, jumped into the ocean and swam ashore.

She fell asleep on the beach and realized what had happened after she woke up.

Moore, 34, and her husband Chad, 31, of Morro Bay were camping above an oceanside cliff in the rugged Big Sur area of Monterey County when they decided to climb down a cliff to a remote beach to find some good surfing and fishing spots — and a little adventure.

"We're avid beachcombers. We get excited about sea glass and abalone shells," Moore said.

Instead, they came on a car bumper and a short time later spotted a rusty and wrecked Jeep.

Nobody was in it.

The couple took the license plate to show authorities.

They also saw items scattered around that they also collected, among them, a poster for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio, Moore said.

"In my head, I thought that maybe someone had died and we would give these items to the next of kin," she said.

"We both agreed that there weren't survivors."

But just in case, they walked further along the beach.

After another quarter-mile, the Moores heard a cry for help, and then another.

Then they saw Hernandez.

"She was really happy and she wasn't sure we were real," Moore said.

"She told us we were the first people she had seen in days but she didn't know how many days exactly. We told her we were going to help her and get her off that beach."

Hernandez had two black eyes and burst blood vessels in her eyes.

"Her clothes were in tatters. Her socks were in scraps" and she was shoeless, Moore said.

"She was very wet. At high tide there's no beach. She said sometimes she'd been sleeping and she'd wake up at night with waves smacking her."

"I found a high spot I was able to climb up to and found myself there almost every day," Hernandez wrote.

"I could see cars driving across the cliff and felt like if I could yell just loud enough, that one could hear or see me. That's all it would take to make it back to my family. Just one person noticing me."

By the third day, she made her way back to her wrecked car, found a 10-inch radiator hose and eventually used it and her hands to collect water.

Hernandez said she developed a daily ritual of walking the beach in search of new high ground, screaming for help at the top of her lungs and collecting fresh water.

Everything changed on Saturday, when Hernandez woke up and saw a woman walking across the shore.

"I thought it was a dream," Hernandez wrote.

While her husband stayed with Hernandez, Moore raced and sloshed her way through water and poison oak, scrambled up a rugged cliff trail to the top to get help from the camp's host and brought back down a pack of food and clothing.

"She chose a peanut butter granola bar. We wrapped her in blankets...tried to keep her comfortable and talking."

Hours later, rescuers were able to take Hernandez back up the cliff and helicopter her to a hospital.

"We're just really lucky beachcombers," Chelsea said.

"She's the hero."

Moore and her husband spoke to Hernandez and her sister by phone in the hospital yesterday night.

"She told us she wants to name her kids after us," Chelsea said.

"We're like equally in awe of each other. It's kind of cool."

Authorities tend to Angela Hernandez, foreground centre, after she was rescued, in Morro Bay, California. Source: Associated Press