My take on this meeting:
Trump comes in for a lot of criticism after the meeting as he did not get confrontational with Putin over the meddling in the election issue. I guess he was supposed to call Putin a liar and blow up the meeting like Nikita Khrushchev did when he met with President Eisenhower after the shoot-down of our spy plane in Russia. Nonsense.
Back up a bit….
Three(3) days before the meeting, Mueller publishes a group of indictments against 12 Russians accusing them of crimes of hacking during the election. These indictments are charges that he never plans to pursue, and for good reasons. If this ever went to a court in the USA, the defendants are entitled by the Constitution to confront their accuser and to demand answers related to the evidence against them: what it is, where it came from and how it was obtained. Basic stuff that is required in all cases and for which a failure to comply with the request will get a case, any case, thrown out of court as a primary violation of the rights of the defendant.
The simple fact is that the US Government is never going to provide answers to those questions as they would require them to provide details as to the methods by which the evidence was collected, the tools by which they were collected, where they were collected from, who did the collecting and when they did the collecting. These are the identical details that are “redacted” when the Congress requests information related to this investigation. To provide the answers would give the Russians inside knowledge key to how we conduct our own espionage on the internet…something the intelligence community would never allow.
There is a precedent for this already with the earlier indictments the Mueller group entered. To their surprise, one of those defendants actually showed up in court to defend themselves and asked the exact same questions and demanded the exact same information. The government immediately went into “damage control” mode and asked the judge involved to deny the accused access to the details….they do not want the Russians to know how and what was collected. There are likely hundreds of cases like this that have passed thru the Federal courts and a refusal of the government to provide these types of answers has always resulted in a case being dismissed.
So, we have a very public display of what I would term “Show Indictments” just 3 days before the meeting. Why….
Well, neither Mueller or his boss Rosenstein are without feelings…and Trump has certainly done more than a bit of dumping all over both of them.
These indictments and all that goes with them were intended as a form of revenge against Trump and to attempt to force him into a corner, an embarrassing corner at that. The hopes were that they would torpedo any attempt by Trump to put the relationship with Russia on a better path and would force him to accept the conclusions Mueller and team want him to accept.
I think he saw this for what it was and acted well in response.