Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit
After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.
Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.
The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.
At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it should be,” he replied.
US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr Trump had sent the Kremlin a message of US “weakness”.
He tweeted: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”
Fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a staunch critic of President Trump – called his words “shameful”.
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
Some US politicians had called for the summit to be cancelled after 12 Russian military intelligence agents were indicted last week by US special counsel Robert Mueller, accused of hacking the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Speaking on Monday, President Putin offered to allow US investigators to visit Russia to question the officers.
He made it clear that, in return, Russia would want similar access to people in the US it suspects of criminal activity.
President Trump said Mr Putin had been “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of any election meddling.