‘He said he didn’t meddle’
Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps denying that his country meddled in the 2016 White House race, President Trump told reporters Saturday.
“He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump said of Putin, speaking with reporters aboard Air Force One as he traveled to Hanoi, the second-last stop of his Asia trip.
Trump said he took Putin at his word that Russia did not seek to interfere in the US presidential election last year, despite a finding from US intelligence agencies that it did. The fraught relations between the two leaders was underscored anew when Putin’s spokesman said election meddling did not come up when they spoke, even though Trump said it did.
U.S. intelligence agencies already have concluded that Russia engaged in a campaign to influence the election, hacking into Democratic emails that later were leaked and using a variety of online tools to spread fake news and other propaganda.
On Saturday Trump described former FBI director James Comey, who testified to Congress that Trump asked him to drop an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian officials, as a proven “liar” and “leaker.” Trump called the former U.S. intelligence officials who concluded the Russians tampered — including former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former CIA director John Brennan — “political hacks.”