‘No veil’ over US-Putin talks

The Citizen (KZN) - - WORLD - Wash­ing­ton

– Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­jected a Wash­ing­ton Post re­port that he re­fused to share de­tails of his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin with top US gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Trump, in a phone in­ter­view on Satur­day with Fox News, dis­missed as “ridicu­lous” the Post story that al­leged he went to great lengths to hide the con­tent of his talks with Putin, con­fis­cat­ing his in­ter­preter’s notes and or­der­ing the per­son not to dis­cuss what was said.

Trump said he had “a great con­ver­sa­tion” with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018. Asked why he did not re­lease de­tails of it, he said: “We were talk­ing about Is­rael and se­cur­ing Is­rael and lots of other things ... I’m not keep­ing any­thing un­der wraps, I couldn’t care less. It’s so ridicu­lous. Any­body could have lis­tened to that meet­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Post there is no de­tailed record of Trump’s per­sonal talks with Putin at five lo­ca­tions over the past two years. The news­pa­per quotes un­named cur­rent and for­mer gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials as sources for the story.

Trump also told Fox when asked about Putin that “no col­lu­sion” has been found be­tween his 2016 cam­paign and Rus­sia, that he was a bet­ter can­di­date than Demo­crat Hillary Clin­ton, that the US econ­omy “is the strong­est in the world” and that The Wash­ing­ton Post is “ba­si­cally the lob­by­ist for Ama­zon”, as both are owned by bil­lion­aire Jeff Be­zos.

Trump also took aim at an ear­lier story in The New York Times, stat­ing the FBI launched a pre­vi­ously undis­closed coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine whether he posed a na­tional se­cu­rity threat, at the same time that it opened a crim­i­nal probe into pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

The FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion was later folded into the broader probe by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller into Rus­sia’s med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and pos­si­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion by the Trump cam­paign. He slammed the Times story, say­ing: “If you read the ar­ti­cle, you’d see they found ab­so­lutely noth­ing.”

Fox asked if he had ever worked for Rus­sia. “It’s the most in­sult­ing thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said, with­out an­swer­ing the ques­tion. No ev­i­dence has pub­licly emerged that Trump was se­cretly in con­tact with or di­rected by Rus­sian of­fi­cials, the Times said.

Mueller has in­dicted 33 peo­ple and con­victed some of Trump’s close as­so­ciates. His ex-na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to ly­ing about his Moscow ties. Trump’s for­mer lawyer, Michael Co­hen, has been sen­tenced for crimes in­clud­ing felony vi­o­la­tions of cam­paign fi­nance laws that pros­e­cu­tors al­lege were car­ried out at Trump’s di­rec­tion.

And his for­mer cam­paign chair­per­son, Paul Manafort, was con­victed in one case and pleaded guilty in an­other for fi­nan­cial crimes be­fore the 2016 cam­paign and wit­ness tam­per­ing. – AFP

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