Video: US President Donald Trump (R) said he was "honoured" to be with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. (ABC News)
President Donald Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed forming a cyber security unit together, an idea harshly criticised by Republicans who said Moscow could not be trusted after its alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.
- Republicans compare suggestion to setting up a chemical weapons unit with Syria
- Mr Putin says that Mr Trump "seemed satisfied" with his answers during their talk
- The US is currently investigating Russia's ties to Mr Trump's campaign officials
- Mr Trump says he did not discuss sanctions with Russia, contradicting his own officials
"Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe," he said.Republican senators Lindsey Graham, an influential South Carolina Republican who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Marco Rubio of Florida, who opposed Mr Trump for their party's presidential nomination, blasted the idea.
"It's not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it's pretty close," Senator Graham told NBC's Meet the Press program, saying Mr Trump's apparent willingness to "forgive and forget" stiffened his resolve to pass legislation imposing sanctions on Russia.
"Partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with [Syrian President Bashar al] Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit'."Mr Trump had long-argued for rapprochement with Moscow in his campaign, but he has been unable to deliver because his administration has been dogged by investigations into the allegations of Russian interference in the election and ties with his campaign.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the matter, including whether there may have been any collusion on the part of Trump campaign officials, as are congressional committees including both the House and Senate intelligence panels.
Photo: Vladimir Putin told reporters phone conversations with the US President were "never enough". (AP: Evan Vucci)Those probes are focused almost exclusively on Moscow's actions, congressmen and intelligence officials say, as no evidence has surfaced publicly implicating other countries despite Mr Trump's suggestion that others could have been involved.
Moscow has denied any interference, and Mr Trump said his campaign did not collude with Russia.
"I don't think we can expect the Russians to be any kind of a credible partner in some kind of cyber security unit," Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN's State of the Union program.
"If that's our best election defence. We might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow."While Mr Trump said he did raise allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election with Mr Putin, he also said he did not discuss the issue of sanctions, contradicting his own officials.
I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....
'Trump seemed satisfied with my answers': Putin"I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.
He added: "We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!"
Mr Putin added that he left the meeting thinking that Mr Trump had believed his in-person denials.
"He asked questions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was satisfied with the answers," Mr Putin said.In another tweet later on Sunday, Mr Trump also said: "Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian & Syrian problems are solved!"
Mr Trump's comment appeared to contradict his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who told reporters Mr Trump had told Mr Putin that US politicians were pushing for additional sanctions against Russia.
The US Senate has passed legislation which would put into law sanctions, including on mining and other industries, previously established via former president Barack Obama's executive orders.
The bill must pass the House of Representatives before it could go to the White House for Mr Trump's signature.
"He's not willing to do anything about it, so it makes me more committed than ever to get sanctions on President Trump's desk punishing Putin," Senator Graham said of Mr Trump.Reuters/AP