Vladimir Putin says he thinks Trump agrees with his assurances that Moscow didn’t interfere in the 2016 presidential election.»
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday said he thinks President Donald Trump agreed with his assurances that Moscow had not interfered in the 2016 presidential election, but suggested that reporters ask the U.S. president what he thought.
The White House did not confirm or deny Saturday the suggestion that Trump, embattled at home by an investigation into Russian meddling, had agreed with the Kremlin leader, who U.S. intelligence agencies allege oversaw a hacking and disinformation effort.
Putin said Saturday that Trump “asked many questions” about Russian interference during their closed-door talks on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit. The Russian leader said he had repeated Moscow’s stance that “there were no grounds to believe that Russia interfered in the U.S. electoral process.”
“It seemed to me that he took it into account, and agreed,” Putin told reporters in Hamburg, which hosted the summit.
The Russian president added: “You should ask him.”
Asked on several occasions during a briefing with reporters on Air Force One if they agreed with Russian assessments of Trump’s reaction, White House officials avoided giving a direct answer.
“I think President Trump handled it brilliantly,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said repeatedly.
Putin’s recounting of the discussion of Russian interference was at odds with that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the meeting. Speaking to reporters Friday, Tillerson said “President Putin denied such involvement,” but he did not say whether Trump accepted that assertion. Rather, Tillerson said Trump decided to move on because Russia would not admit blame.
Tillerson said, though, that the United States wasn’t dismissing Russian responsibility, and that the two sides had agreed to organize talks “regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process.”
Putin expanded on that Saturday, saying that Russia and the United States had agreed to work together to “prevent interference in the domestic affairs of foreign states, primarily in Russia and Trump’s son, Kushner met with Russian lawyer. Donald Trump’s eldest son, son-in-law and then-campaign chairman met with a Russian lawyer shortly after Trump won the Republican nomination, in what appears to be the earliest known private meeting between key aides to the president and a Russian.
Representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner confirmed the June 2016 meeting to The Associated Press after The New York Times reported Saturday on the gathering of the men and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. Thencampaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended, according to the statement from Donald Trump Jr.
He described it as a “short introductory meeting” during which the three discussed a disbanded program that used to allow U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children. the U.S.” Putin has repeatedly said that the United States has been interfering in Russian elections since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the election to benefit Trump, but the president, unwilling to acknowledge allegations that cast a shadow on the legitimacy of his election victory, has refused to fully embrace the finding.
As a result, Trump’s public stance on the election — that “nobody really knows for sure” who hacked a Democratic Party email server — has echoed Putin’s own words.
It has also put the U.S. president at odds with members of his own administration. In an interview with CNN that will air Sunday, Nikki Halley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that “everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.
“Everybody knows that they’re not just meddling in the United States’ election,” Haley said in the interview on CNN’S “State of the Union” program. “They’re doing this across multiple continents, and they’re doing this in a way that they’re trying to cause chaos within the countries.”
Putin told reporters that “the television Trump is very different from the real man.”
“He is absolutely specific,” Putin said.