President Donald Trump, fresh off a sidelines meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vietnam, says he believes the Kremlin leader when Putin said his government did not meddle in last year’s U.S. 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,” the president said aboard Air Force One. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.
“He says that very strongly, he really seems to be insulted by it and he says he didn’t do it. You can only ask so many times. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” Trump said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have said all along they believe Russia was behind efforts to interfere in the U.S. election last year, but other intelligence experts and Cold War veterans have added that is nothing new for Moscow.
For his part, Trump says better ties with Russia would be better for both countries and the world because it would lessen “danger” of a conflict in the future.
Trump also accused Obama-era intelligence chiefs — CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, along with fired FBI Director James Comey — of being “political hacks” on behalf of their former boss.
“They’re political hacks,” Trump said.
“So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker,” he continued.
Analyst Comment: The reliably anti-Trump Washington Post dutifully carried a rebuttal from Clapper and Brennan, in which both accused the president of being “played” by Putin. Maybe he is, but then again, it’s also possible Trump is playing Putin. Washington is looking for cooperation from Russia, which is suffering under U.S. sanctions at the moment, with Syria and North Korea. A little ego-boosting from Trump for Putin may go a long way towards accomplishing the White House’s goals. And besides, Clapper and Brennan have been critical of Trump in the past, which is a break, really, from protocol.