Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned President Trump Dec. 16 to thank him for a CIA tip that helped thwart bombings in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin and the White House said — letting Trump show the benefit of better relations despite the ongoing Russia collusion probe, one expert said.
Putin expressed gratitude for the CIA information. The Kremlin said it led Russia's top domestic security agency to a group of suspects that planned to bomb St. Petersburg's Kazan Cathedral and other sites.
"The information received from the CIA proved sufficient to find and detain the criminal suspects," the Kremlin said.
Putin extended his thanks to the CIA. Trump then called CIA Director Mike Pompeo "to congratulate him, his very talented people, and the entire intelligence community on a job well done!"
"President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives," a White House statement said. "President Trump stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be. Both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together."
The Kremlin said Putin assured Trump that "if the Russian intelligence agencies receive information about potential terror threats against the United States and its citizens, they will immediately hand it over to their U.S. counterparts."
Putin and Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany. July 7, 2017. (Photo from Moscow Kremlin.)
Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute said, "Donald Trump was on the record for the better part of his campaign about wanting to have a better relationship with Russia. The trouble is that credible allegations of interference in the 2016 election have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Trump to improve relations with Russia without being accused of being too close to the Russians.
"This is an example of him taking advantage of an incident like this to call attention to the potential for better relations, but for many Americans the concern of Russian interference in the 2016 election is greater," Preble said.
The CIA's tip to Russia comes even as Russia-U.S. ties have plunged to their lowest level since the Cold War era — first over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, more recently over allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election to help Trump.