President Donald Trump is winding down his lengthy Asia trip with an international summit and a trio of meetings with Pacific Rim allies, including his host in the Philippines who is overseeing a bloody drug war.
Trump, in Manila, attended the opening ceremonies of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations conference, which began with pageantry, including a group photo of the leaders and the summit’s traditional handshake. That cross-body shake, during which each leader shakes the opposite hands of those next to him, briefly baffled Trump, who then laughed as he figured out where to place his arms.
One of the leaders on his flank: with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a bloody drug war that has featured extrajudicial killings. The two men are also slated to hold longer, formal talks later Monday and White House aides signaled that Trump is not expected to publicly bring up human rights in their discussions.
Trump will also meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, which plays a key role in the U.S. vision of an Indo-Pacific region that attempts to de-emphasize China’s influence. And he will meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull, with whom he had a contentious phone call this spring.
WATCH: Filipino President Duterte sings at gala ‘upon the orders’ of Trump
Trump’s discussions will largely center on trade and North Korea but he remains dogged by things he has said, and not said, about Russia.
He tried to have it both ways on the issue of Russian interference in last year’s presidential race, saying he believes both the U.S. intelligence agencies when they say Russia meddled and Putin’s sincerity in claiming that his country did not.
“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam.
“As to whether I believe it, I’m with our agencies,” Trump said. “As currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”
WATCH: Greeted by water cannons holding back protesters, President Trump opened an economic summit in the Philippines Monday
But just a day earlier, he had lashed out at the former heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing them as “political hacks” and claiming there were plenty of reasons to be suspicious of their findings that Russia meddled to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Former CIA director John Brennan, appearing Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” with former national intelligence director James Clapper, said Trump was deriding them in an attempt to “delegitimize” the intelligence community’s assessment.