Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney, said in a statement following the plea that it was “hardly coincidental” that Mueller brought the charge “just as the President is leaving for a meeting with world leaders.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Mueller’s probe “probably does undermine our relationship with Russia.” But, she said, the “reason for our canceled meeting is Ukraine.”
“I think that likely President Trump and his advisors realized that meeting with Putin would create increased liabilities for President Trump, considering his performance in Helsinki,” said Mark Simakovsky, a former Russia country director in the Department of Defense. “Clearly they felt vulnerable because of this domestic situation going on.”
Russian lawmakers suggested that the cancellation was pushed by “anti-Russian” forces in the U.S. government.
“Trump’s cancellation of a meeting with Putin is another [instance of] Twitter anti-diplomacy,” said Leonid Slutsky, a Russian member of parliament who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the Duma, the lower chamber of parliament.
Slutsky told reporters Trump was “probably squeezed by Russian opponents inside the U.S.,” and said the move “goes completely in line with the anti-Russian policy,” according to a report in the state news agency TASS.
In a post on Facebook, Russian senator Konstantin Kosachev said the “source and the driving forces” behind Trump’s action are “exclusively in the whirling of domestic political passions in the American capital.” Kosachev chairs the foreign affairs committee in the Russian parliament’s upper house.
John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and the director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, said in an email that Moscow has a pattern of “distinguishing between President Trump and the tougher, more realistic policies of his Administration.” The latest development, he said, is no exception.