CNN is reporting that Trump said he took Russian President Vladimir Putin at his word that Russia did not seek to interfere in the election last year, despite a finding from US intelligence agencies that it did.
Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as he flew from Da Nang to Hanoi in Vietnam,
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. 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.“
Trump has remained mostly quiet about the Russia investigation back home, but on his flight, which left Da Nang in the early evening Saturday, Trump’s anger over the Russia matter came out,
“There was no collusion. Everybody knows there was no collusion. 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.“
Trump seemed to indicate on Saturday that he trusts Putin’s denials more than the comments of former intelligence officials, like former high-ranking intelligence officials James Comey, John Brennan and James Clapper.
“I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks. 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.“
Trump repeated that, according to him alone (& Fox News, I’m guessing) the Russian interference in the US election is a conspiracy invented by Democrats to distract from their electoral losses. And he implied that investigators looking into his campaign aides’ ties to Moscow were better off probing elsewhere.
“That whole thing was set up by the Democrats.“
Trump and Putin did speak at various occasions throughout the summit, and agreed to release a joint statement on Syria. But they did not sit for formal talks. Trump has met his Russian counterpart only one for such a face-to-face bilateral session, at the G20 summit in Germany in July.
“The relations between Russia and the US have not come out of the crisis state yet. As you know, and I often talk about it, we are prepared to turn the page and go forward to look into the future to solve the problems that are of interest to people of the United States and people of the Russian Federation.“
Meanwhile, Putin’s press secretary Dmitri Peskov told CNN that Putin and Trump did not discuss meddling in the presidential elections. In a text, CNN’s Matthew Chance asked Peskov,
“as far as you know, did the two leaders discuss meddling?“
Peskov’s response was
(Photos, YouTube; via CNN)