Trump said he has asked Putin on several occasions
whether Russia meddled in the US election.
The US president told reporters from Air Force One that
Putin insists he “absolutely” did not meddle.
Trump has repeatedly questioned the CIA, NSA, and FBI’s
assessment of Russia’s interference.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted on Saturday in a
meeting with President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that Russia did not
meddle in the US election — and Trump said he believed him.
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told
reporters from Air Force One. “I asked him again. You can only
ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely
did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are
saying he did.”
It is unclear who Trump meant when he said “they” — but the US
intelligence agencies who examined the election meddling
concluded in January that Putin ordered the interference to
undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told CNN that the
leaders did not discuss Russian meddling.
Asked whether or not he believed Putin’s denial, Trump replied:
“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I
believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means
it. But he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he is very insulted
by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the CIA, NSA, and FBI’s
assessment of Russia’s interference, calling it a “hoax” that the
Democrats have used to justify losing the election.
Putin similarly denied that Russia had interfered in the election
when he met with Trump in July on the sidelines of the G20
The Russian leader “asked for proof and evidence” that Moscow was
behind the hacks and disinformation campaign, Secretary of State
Rex Tillerson, who was present at the meeting, said at the time.
“President Trump has said that he has heard earlier declarations
from Mr. Putin that Russian leadership and Russian government has
not interfered in the elections,” Tillerson told reporters.
“And he accepts the things that Mr. Putin has said…not a single
fact has been presented” that would prove allegations of Russian
meddling, he added.
Special counsel Robert Mueller and three congressional committees
are currently investigating Russia’s election interference and
whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.
Trump fumed about the investigation aboard Air Force One on
“There was no collusion. Everybody knows there was no collusion,”
Trump said. “I think it’s a shame that something like that could
destroy a very important potential relationship between two
countries that are really important countries.”
He then called former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA
director John Brennan, and former Director of Intelligence James
Clapper “political hacks.”
“I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks,” Trump said,
when asked about their assessment that Russia had interfered.
“So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper
and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is
proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have
President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to
do with them.”
The president added that he “would rather” find solutions to the
wars in Syria and Ukraine than discuss Russian meddling.
“That whole thing was set up by the Democrats,” he said.