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Donald Trump says the probe is damaging US-Russian relations

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US President Donald Trump claims he did not criticize British Prime Minister Theresa May during an interview with The Sun newspaper, which questioned May's dealings with Brexit. (July 13th)
AP

ELLESBOROUGH, England – The Friday drivers of a dozen Russian nationals who joined the Democratic National Committee landed a few days before President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding another dimension to an already-strained meeting.

Hours before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges, Trump promised to "ask" Putin for Moscow's involvement in the recent presidential election, but warned that the "stupidity" of domestic politics and the ongoing investigation of the special adviser would continue Russian relations.

Trump will hold his first summit with Putin in Helsinki on Monday after meeting with NATO allies. Speak at a press conference Together with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, Trump said he did not expect major breakthroughs in the matter and would instead focus on building a relationship with the Russian leader.

"I'll do that absolutely," Trump said of Russian interference. "I do not think you'll have anything." Gee, I did it, I did it. You got me! "There will not be Perry Mason here, I do not think so. But I will definitely ask the question. "

Hours later, Rosenstein revealed the indictment of 12 Russians, all Russian intelligence officers, that Special Adviser Robert Mueller "made a lasting contribution to the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC, and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign."

Rosenstein said he informed Trump earlier this week about the allegations and said that the timing of the announcement was a coincidence.

During his European tour, Trump hinted that he would like to build a better relationship with Putin. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Trump described Putin as a "competitor," not an enemy or a friend.

He is not my enemy. And hopefully one day he will be a friend.

Democrats on Capitol Hill said the indictment underscored the need for Trump Putin to push the issue. Several, including the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Trump to cancel the meeting altogether.

"These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who intervened in our elections to help President Trump win," Schumer said.

Trump, who shattered NATO allies earlier this week by calling for an increase in defense spending, criticized the leaders of Germany and the United Kingdom and said he also planned to use the meeting with Putin to facilitate Russia's annexation of Crimea discuss Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and nuclear proliferation.

Trump expressed concern over whether the US and Russia could realistically build a stronger alliance in the face of Moscow's intervention in Ukraine. He responded by accusing former President Barack Obama of not doing enough to respond to the crisis at the time.

"That was an Obama disaster," Trump said. "I think if I were president, he would not have taken over the Crimea."

The Democrats scolded Trump's European tour and said they were skeptical of the upcoming one-on-one interview with Putin.

More: Trump downplayed interview with British tabloid, praises Prime Minister May

"He is giving our closest ally the backs of his hands and hugging people like Putin," said New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to CNN.

The President also accused the probe of Special Adviser for Russia's involvement in the violation of US-Russian relations. He referred to a day-long hearing on Capitol Hill, where Republicans grilled FBI agent Peter Strzok over anti-Trump text messages he sent as he conducted previous explorations of the campaign.

The Inspector General of the Department of Justice rejected the text messages last month and described them as "contrary to the core values ​​of the FBI". But the investigators said they had found no evidence. Strzok's personal beliefs influenced the investigation.

More: Trump at the meeting with Queen Friday: She has a great and beautiful grace about her & # 39;

Trump referred to the texts as referring to the ongoing investigation as a "manipulated witch hunt," saying the investigation "really harms our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia."

Despite a turbulent NATO meeting, Trump said that the 29 member states had reached consensus on what he called commitments of other countries to increase their defense spending.

Trump has not specifically said what commitments he has made. Several European leaders said after the meeting that they would only agree to reach the 2014 targets.

Trump has said that Allies' contributions to NATO have risen $ 33 billion since last year.

"We have left NATO with more money, more unity and more spirit than NATO has ever had," Trump said. "We are much harder for Russia than anyone, we have been very close to Russia."

More: President Trump attacks British politicians, saying "baby" blimp makes him feel unwelcome in London

As Trump walked away from the press conference at Checkers, the Prime Minister's residence, CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked him, "Will you ask Putin to withdraw from the US election?"

Trump looked over his shoulder and said, "Yes."

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