Trump says Putin sincere in denial of Russian meddling
November 11 at 9:34 PM President Trump on Nov. 11 said he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is being truthful when he denies that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. (Reuters)
President Trump said that President VladiÂmir Putin had assured him again Saturday that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential campaign, and indicated that he believed Putinâs sincerity, drawing immediate criticism from lawmakers and former intelligence officials responsible who assessed that the meddling took place.
âI asked him again,â Trump said after what he described as several brief, informal chats with Putin in Danang, Vietnam, where they were attending a regional conference. âYou can only ask so many times. .â.â. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.
âI really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. .â.â. I think heâs very insulted, if you want to know the truth,â Trump told reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One from Danang to Hanoi, on the ninth day of a long Asia tour. Trump voiced similar conclusions after his only previous meeting with Putin, last July in Germany.
Trumpâs response to questions about his conversations with ÂPutin was a jarring return to the more insular preoccupations of Washington after more than a week of what has been a trip filled with pageantry and pledges of mutual admiration, but few substantive outcomes, between Trump and Asian leaders.
[âHe said he didnât meddleâ: Trump talks with Putin about U.S. elections and Syria in brief interactions]
Trump suggested that what he called the âartificial Democratic hit jobâ of investigations of possible collusion between his campaign and Russia were somehow preventing U.S.-Russia cooperation on a range of issues, including North Korea. âItâs a shame,â he said, âbecause people will die because of it.â
In a tweetstorm later, in which he also disparaged North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump continued to bash critics of his relationship with Moscow, calling them âhaters and foolsâ who donât understand the importance of having a good relationship with Russia.
In his own news conference after their talks, Putin said he knew âabsolutely nothingâ about Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials, and called reports that a campaign official met with his niece âbollocks,â according to an interpreter.
âThey can do what they want, looking for some sensation,â Putin said of the investigations. âBut there are no sensations.â
Trump described the former top U.S. intelligence officials who concluded in January that the tampering took place â" including former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former CIA director John Brennan â" as âpoliti cal hacks.â He called former FBI director James B. Comey, who testified to Congress that Trump asked him to drop an investigation of his campaignâs connections to Russian officials, a âliarâ and a âleaker.â
Clapper said in a statement that âthe president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election. His own DNI and CIA director have confirmed the finding in the intelligence community assessment. The fact that he would take Putin at his word over the intelligence community is unconscionable.â
Brennan declined to comment.
In a statement, the CIA said that Director Mike Pompeo âstands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community assessment .â.â. with regard to Russian election meddling.â That position, it said, âhas not changed.â The assessment also concluded that Russia had acted to promote Trumpâs victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Although Pompeo said last month that in telligence agencies had determined that Russian interference had not altered the electoral outcome, the assessment did not address that question.
[CIA director distorts intelligence communityâs findings on Russian interference]
Former CIA director Michael V. Hayden said he was so concerned by Trumpâs statement that he contacted the agency to confirm that it stood by the January assessment. He described Trumpâs remarks as âegregious comments on the character of folks who have been public servants .â.â. [and] the public should know that these guys are thoroughgoing professionals, and what the president left unsaid is that the people he put into these jobs agree with the so-called hacks.â
Senior officials in the intelligence community will be dismayed by the disparagement of two respected intelligence veterans, Hayden said. âPeople have a right to ask at senior levels: âDoes what I do make a difference anymore?â ââ
Michael Morell, a former acting director and deputy director of the CIA, said Trump was âbiting hook, line and sinkerâ the word of Putin, a former intelligence officer who is a âtrained liar and manipulator.â Although progress had been made in the intelligence communityâs initial raw relationship with Trump, Morell said in an email, âthis will most definitely be a step backward.â
Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the panels investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, said he was left âcompletely speechlessâ by Trumpâs willingness to take Putinâs word âover the conclusions of our own combined intelligence community.â
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement: âInstead of criticizing the Russian leader for the audacity of his interference and denials, he attacked Directors Brennan, Clapper and Comey .â.â. But the President fool s no one. He understands that the Russians intervened through the hacking and dumping of his opponents emails, the fruits of which he exploited time and again on the campaign trail.â
Several Republican members of the Senate and House intelligence panels did not respond to requests to comment on Trumpâs remarks.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement that âthereâs nothing âAmerica Firstâ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community .â.â. VladiÂmir Putin does not have Americaâs interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.âPresident Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands on Nov. 11 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam. (Reuters)
Trumpâs latest comments on the subject came as investigations of allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia have moved into a new, more visible an d potentially consequential phase.
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III filed criminal charges two weeks ago against three people â" including a former Trump campaign chairman and two lower-level campaign advisers â" and more charges are expected.
Although Trump, his family members and close aides reject any suggestion of collusion, new evidence has emerged that people in Trumpâs orbit communicated with Russians during the campaign. Three congressional committees investigating the matter are focused in part on a meeting that occurred in Trump Tower in June 2016, attended by Trumpâs son Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, with a well-connected Russian lawyer offering negative information about Clinton.
In his news conference, Putin said he and Trump âhardly know each other.â He described the U.S. president as âvery professional, very friendly, he behaves very appropriately,â and added, âUnfo rtunately, we did not have enough time to get down to some more details, because we have many matters to discuss.â
The two leaders issued a joint statement pledging to continue their cooperation to defeat the Islamic State in Syria, and their commitment to U.N.-brokered peace negotiations between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and opponents fighting to oust him.
Putin also said that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who held a long meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, had âsimilar viewsâ on various issues, including North Korea. âOur views completely coincide. .â.â. We do not accept the nuclear status of that country,â Putin said.
Trump said in his airborne remarks to reporters that a Xi statement calling for denuclearization of North Korea, which depends on China for its economic survival, was a major step forward that âa lot of people .â.â. didnât pick up.â
Russia, Trump said, also could be âtremendously helpfulâ on North Korea but was prevented by âthis artificial Democrat barrierâ of the election investigations. âI think itâs a shame that something like that can destroy a very important potential relationship between two countries that are very important countries,â Trump said. âRussia could really help us.â
Putin blamed the lack of a formal meeting with Trump at the conference on the âfailureâ of their teams, adding they would be âlecturedâ on the lapse.
Relations with the United States, Putin said, are âstill in crisis,â even though Russia is âsaying that we are ready to turn that page over and go forward and look into the future.â
Putin noted that Russiaâs relations with China, a country that he said would soon be âthe biggest economyâ in the world, are growing stronger. The United States, he said, is losing out on profitable investments in Russia, presumably because of sanctions.
â If you donât want to work,â Putin said, âthere will be others. Your competitors will come and take your place.â
Parker reported from Hanoi and Nakamura reported from Danang. Tom Hamburger and Greg Miller in Washington contributed to this report.Source: Google News