Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Sunday that Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak met with then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign several times throughout the 2016 presidential campaign season.
During an interview with CNN host Fareed Zakaria, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov asserted that Kislyak met with Clinton advisers before the election, and that it wasn't abnormal for the ambassador to speak with both candidates in the running to discuss relations between the two countries.
Zakaria first asked him about Kislyak's meetings with the Trump campaign at the time.
"So what was it that the Russian ambassador was talking to so many of Donald Trump's associates about?" Zakaria asked.
Peskov told him that it was common protocol for their country's ambassadors to speak with presidential candidates in other countries.
"This is his job. He was talking about bilateral relations. He was talking about what was going on in the United States so we have a better understanding in Moscow," Peskov said. "This is what has been performed by every ambassador of Russia abroad, every ambassador of the United States abroad — including in Moscow — the more ambassador talks to people in his country of residence, the better job he does."
Zakaria then questioned Peskov about whether Kislyak met with the Clinton campaign, adding he was not aware of any such meetings.
"Well, if you look at some people connected with Hillary Clinton during her campaign, you would probably see that he had lots of meetings of that kind,” Peskov answered. "But there were no meetings about electoral process. There was in no way it should be percepted (sic) as interference in the electoral process."
"There are lots of specialists in politology (sic), people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary," he said. "So if you look at it with intention to demonize Russia, you would probably see that yes, he was trying to interfere in Hillary's activities. But it would be nonsense because this is not true."
Zakaria pressed harder on Putin's preference toward Trump, which Peskov answered was simply a result of Clinton's negative remarks toward Russia during the campaign.
"The candidate Hillary Clinton was quite negative about our country in her attitude. On your program declaring Russia nearly 'the main evil in the world,' and the main threat for the United States," Peskov said. "To the contrary, the other candidate Donald Trump was saying that 'Yes, we disagree with the Russians on lots of issues but we have to talk to them in order to try to find some understanding.' Whom would you like better?"
Addressing the national intelligence community's conclusion that Russia did interfere in the United States electoral process, Peskov said, "We don't know what's the reason for these words. We've never seen any evidence and we've never heard something trustful (sic)."