Putin’s denial gospel for Trump
U.S. leader calls accusations of meddling an ‘artificial thing’
DA NANG, Vietnam — President Donald Trump declined to press concerns Saturday about Russian interference in the presidential election last year with Russian President Vladimir Putin while the two leaders met in Vietnam.
“Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’” Trump said aboard Air Force One while traveling between Da Nang and Hanoi during his 12-day Asian trip. “And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that. He means it.”
Trump criticized former U.S. national security officials who sounded the alarm about Russian interference, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired this year.
“They’re political hacks,” Trump said. “Comey is proven now to be a liar, and he’s proven to be a leaker. So you look at that. And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”
Both men were in Da Nang to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Trump said he had “two or three very short conversations” with Putin over the past two days to discuss Syria. They issued a statement Saturday promising further cooperation in seeking a political solution to the country’s civil war.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia engaged in a campaign to influence the election, hacking into Democratic emails that later were leaked and using online tools to spread fake news and other propaganda.
Trump also raised the meddling issue with Putin in July, during the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Putin came away from the meeting saying Trump was “satisfied” with his denials. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a different version, saying the two countries may have “an intractable disagreement” over the issue.
Trump said Saturday that he and Putin “have a good feeling toward getting things done” and that a stronger relationship with Russia “would be a great thing, not a bad thing.”