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June 22, 2018
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Residents in Puerto Rico were left without power for months after Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, and experts estimate that around 4,640 people died. But the Environmental Protection Agency thinks it did an A-plus job responding to the disaster.

The EPA is creating "challenge coins" to congratulate itself on its "response excellence," CNN reported Friday.

The agency will spend around $8,500 on a set of coins that will be handed out as collectable awards to EPA officials who were involved in responding to the 2017 hurricane season. The coins will feature the EPA Emergency Response logo and will read "HURRICANES HARVEY, IRMA AND MARIA — THE CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES" as well as "PROTECTING HUMAN HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT ALL ACROSS AMERICA."

Officials asked the contractor who is creating the coins to "convey the sentiment that EPA staff from all across the country worked together to respond to the incidents from Puerto Rico to California (and regions in between)," reports CNN. Despite environmental advocates calling the EPA's response to Hurricane Maria "lacking," an EPA spokesperson defended the coins, saying "the dedicated public servants who worked tirelessly throughout the 2017 disaster relief efforts should be commended for their service." Summer Meza

3:36 p.m. ET

Dictionary.com knows how to deliver a subtweet, which it defines as "a hostile or otherwise negative post ... about a particular person but [that] does not mention the person's username."

The website often tweets the meaning of whatever word is taking over the news each day. And in the wake of President Trump's much-derided Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, that word was "traitor."

Dictionary.com didn't name any names, but its replies lit up with users who thought this tweet referred to a particular president. And for those tired of calling Trump's summit with Putin a "disaster," Thesaurus.com offered some alternatives:

The dictionary site's most-visited definitions were also remarkably reflective of the national mood. Trending on Monday were "proliferation" — as in nuclear proliferation — and "collusion" — that thing Trump insists his campaign didn't do with Russia. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:28 p.m. ET

President Trump on Monday directly pitted the advice of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats against the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin — and appeared to side with the latter. During his joint press conference with the Russian leader following their closed-door summit, Trump said of Russian meddling in the 2016 election: "All I can do is ask the question. People came to me — Dan Coats came to me, and some others — they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."

Following Trump's appearance with Putin, Coats released a statement reaffirming the conclusion of the American intelligence community, which is that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Without mentioning either the American or the Russian president, Coats wrote: "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy." He added pointedly: "We will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security."

BBC editor Paul Danahar noted that the fact that Coats would release "a statement that appears to be in repudiation of his boss tells you how unprecedented Trump's comments alongside President Putin today truly were." Read Coats' full statement here. Kimberly Alters

3:04 p.m. ET
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Conservatives in and out of Washington were alarmed by President Trump's joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, where the American leader refused to affirm the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that Putin's Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Pressed directly by Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire as to whether he believes Putin's assertions that Russia is innocent over the findings of American intelligence, Trump dodged the question altogether — and he later lauded Putin's "very strong denials" of meddling and said, "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia that interfered.

But where some national security experts saw a president who appears to be "wholly in the pocket of Putin," Vice President Mike Pence saw quite the opposite. "What the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first," Pence said, per NBC News' Peter Alexander.

NBC News' Benjy Sarlin notes that on July 27, 2016 — just days after Pence was introduced as Trump's running mate at the Republican National Convention — Pence struck quite a different tune. "If it is Russia and they are interfering in our elections," Pence said at the time, "I can assure you both parties and the United States government will ensure there are serious consequences." Kimberly Alters

3:04 p.m. ET

Democrats and Republicans alike have united to condemn President Trump's statements at Monday's joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin — but Russian officials couldn't be happier.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called Trump's performance "shameful," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) condemned the president's "naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats," and former CIA Director John Brennan called the comments "nothing short of treasonous."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the other hand, said the summit was "fabulous ... better than super," Russian media reported. Perhaps Lavrov and failed GOP-hopeful Don Blankenship can start a club — a very, very small club. Summer Meza

2:45 p.m. ET

The conservatives aren't alright. After President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and held a joint press conference with the Russian leader Monday, conservatives took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

First up to bat was Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who quickly condemned Trump's "bizarre" equivalence of the U.S. and Russia's roles in destroying their relationship. "When the president plays these moral equivalence games," Sasse said in a statement, "he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs." Sasse's fellow Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), wrote that he thought Trump's performance was "shameful."

Still, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had perhaps the most savage take of them all:

Away from Capitol Hill, Republican strategist Mike Murphy blasted Trump's "damn near traitorous" remarks, calling the press conference "the most depressing, disgusting, toadying, weak, moronic, [and] lie-stuffed" appearance in the "long history of the American presidency." Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh called the event "the final straw," saying he would "never support Trump again." CNN host S.E. Cupp, meanwhile, rounded things off with a solid dose of sarcasm, which you can see below. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:40 p.m. ET

President Trump's Monday comments in Helsinki didn't earn him much support from longstanding critics, nor from fellow GOP leaders. But at least the president still has Don Blankenship on his side.

"Trump did a great job today," tweeted the former West Virginia Senate candidate. "Most national media commentary on it is ignorant and un-American."

Most national media commentary — much of it focused on quoting exact words from Trump's joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin — has pointed out just how unprecedented it is for a U.S. president to side with Russia over the American intelligence community. What's un-American to Blankenship, apparently, is calling Trump's performance anything but "great."

Blankenship, who once boasted that he was "Trumpier than Trump," often backs the president on Twitter, saying that Trump is right and the rest of the GOP is wrong. While the former coal tycoon must be used to flying solo in his unpopular opinions by now, he may find himself especially alone in this particular case. Summer Meza

1:33 p.m. ET

He may not have been on camera, but Anderson Cooper couldn't hide his displeasure with Monday's U.S.-Russia meeting.

The second President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands after a post-summit press conference, the CNN anchor slammed the American president. "You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader that I've ever seen," Cooper declared.

Cooper's harsh words came in response to a joint press conference with Putin and Trump, held Monday after the two leaders held a closed-door meeting. Both Trump and Putin disputed claims of Russian meddling in American elections during the conference, with Putin vehemently denying interference in 2016 and Trump refusing to believe American intelligence over Putin. Instead of holding Putin accountable for alleged interference, Trump pivoted to his favorite topic: Hillary Clinton's emails.

Cooper called out Trump for fixating on this one topic, "like in Rain Man," where Dustin Hoffman plays the title character with autism.

Which may not have been the most thoughtful comparison to make. Cooper's CNN colleague John King, meanwhile, said Trump's meeting with Putin amounted to a "Surrender Summit." Kathryn Krawczyk

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