Vladimir Putin says he thinks Trump agrees with his as­sur­ances that Moscow didn’t in­ter­fere in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.»

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By David Filipov

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.

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