The following article by Alicia Cohn was posted on the Hill website November 11, 2017:
President Trump said Saturday he isn’t going to “argue” with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denies that Moscow sought to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One, according to White House pool reports.
“I can’t stand there and argue with him, I would rather have him get out of Syria,” Trump said. “You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”
Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, later told CNN election meddling did not come up during the two leaders’ meeting, despite Trump saying he asked Putin about it.
Trump called the investigation into Russia’s election meddling “this Democratic-inspired thing.” He has repeatedly referred to the investigation as a “witch hunt.”
Trump also said the suspicions about Putin are hurting his ability to develop a closer relationship with the leader in order to have more productive discussions on North Korea.
“We could really be helped a lot with Russia having to do with North Korea,” Trump said. “You know you are talking about millions and millions of lives. This isn’t baby stuff, this is the real deal. And if Russia helped us, in addition to China, that problem would go away a lot faster.”
Trump and Putin met Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang, Vietnam. They did not have a formal meeting scheduled, but according to Trump will issue a joint statement. Trump said the two leaders had “two or three very short conversations” during the larger forum and discussed Syria.
Trump said Putin is “very insulted” by the suggestion Moscow attempted to hack the election.
Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did attempt to influence the U.S. election. Several congressional committees, as well as a Justice Department special prosector, are currently investigating how much influence Russia had in the presidential election and whether the Kremlin colluded with either of the candidates.
Trump has maintained there was no collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin.
The president is in the middle of a five-nation, 12-day trip to Asia and is currently in Vietnam.