At the conclusion of his summit meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin, US President Donald Trump said he directly asked Putin about Russia’s interference in the US 2016 election.
“I addressed directly with president Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person. Spent a great deal of time talking about it,” Trump said, standing at podium side-by-side with the Russian president during a joint press conference Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
Putin again denied Russian interference in the US election, just three days after the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russian government agents for hacking the Democratic Party during the 2016 election, reports ABC News.
President Trump said that while he trusts the US intelligence community, which has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, the president also said Putin’s denial was “extremely strong.”
“So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today (Monday),” Trump said.
The president also seemed to suggest he accepted Putin's denials and that he saw no reason to believe otherwise.
"I have president Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.
Trump said Putin made an “incredible offer” to allow US investigators work alongside Russian investigators.
“He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that's an incredible offer,” Trump said.
President Trump said that relations between the two nations were at a historic low point prior to today's (Monday) meeting but argued that relations have already taken a positive turn as a result of today's diplomatic engagement.
“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that,” President Trump said.
Trump described the conversations as “direct, open, [and] deeply productive,” while Putin called the meeting a “success” and “fruitful.”
Asked if he holds Russia accountable for any specific element of the strained relations between the two nations, Trump said he holds both countries accountable but specifically zeroed in on the ongoing special counsel probe in the US as a “disaster” that has divided the US domestically and for having a damaging impact on US-Russian relations.
“I do feel that we have both made some mistakes,” Trump said. “I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart. It's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”
“We won that race,” Trump said, referencing his victory over Hillary Clinton. “It's a shame there could be a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. The main thing – we discussed this also – is zero collusion. It has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.”
When a reporter questioned Putin on his continued denials of US election meddling, President Trump jumped in to say "we ran a brilliant campaign, and that's why I'm president.”
The two leaders met for a long-anticipated summit Monday, but initially publicly made no mention of thorny issues like election meddling, Syria or Crimea before sitting down for the first meeting, a one-on-one encounter.
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