President Donald Trump reportedly told aides he was impressed with Russian President Vladimir Putin after their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki last week.
The Washington Post reported that Trump went on about how Putin is "strong, smart, and cunning," and said he "relished" his interactions with the Russian strongman.
Trump was also reportedly surprised at the backlash and negative media coverage of the meeting, where he refused to condemn Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.
President Donald Trump reportedly fawned over Russian President Vladimir Putin to his aides after they met for a high stakes summit in Helsinki last week.
The Washington Post reported that Trump specifically admired how Putin is "strong, smart, and cunning." He also reportedly said he relished his interactions with the Russian leader.
Trump stunned observers when, during a press conference after the Helsinki summit, he refused to denounce Putin, declined to hold Russia accountable for its interference in the 2016 election, and suggested the FBI was part of a conspiracy to underine his election victory. Instead, he touted the "direct, open, deeply productive dialogue" he had with Putin.
In turn, national security experts said, Putin played Trump like a fiddle.
Trump and Putin's discussion in their private meeting has not been disclosed, but Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov said Wednesday Trump made "important verbal agreements" on issues such as the Ukraine and the conflict in Syria.
Since the summit, the White House has been engulfed in crisis after crisis as Trump dug himself into a deeper hole vis-a-vis Russia even after arriving back in the US.
The White House or Trump had to walk back their remarks on three separate occasions, and the State Department, the Senate, and even Trump's top intelligence chief publicly split with him over the last ten days on the issue of Russia's aggression toward the West.
After he left Helsinki, Trump reportedly grew frustrated with the negative media coverage of what he thought was a successful summit, complaining to aides there was not enough focus on the responsibility the Democratic National Committee had in the hacking of its servers.
He tweeted Monday as criticism of his comments started to emerge, stating his confidence in US intelligence, but also pushed the necessity for a close working relationship with Russia. He repeatedly tweeted about the meeting's coverage in the days after, calling the media "the enemy of the people".
Despite facing major blowback, Trump, in characteristic fashion, doubled down on his affinity for Putin.
On Thursday, the White House announced the two leaders would meet again in the fall, around the time of the congressional midterm elections the US intelligence community says Russia is trying to meddle in.