While in Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not hold a formal meeting, but they did talk informally several times. During those conversations, Trump pressed the Russian leader on whether or not his country tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election. Trump revealed to reporters Saturday what Putin said.
What did Trump say?
According to CNN, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that when he asked Putin about the election interference, the Russian president denied any wrongdoing. Trump admitted that he believed Putin.
The press asked: "Did Russia’s attempts to meddle in US elections come up in the conversations?"
"He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times," Trump responded. "I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did."
What else did Trump say?
When pressed further about whether or not he actually discussed Russian meddling with Putin, Trump said that he "really believe[s]" Putin's denials — and explained why he wished America had an active relationship with Russia.
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. But he says I didn’t do that. I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country. Because again, if we had a relationship with Russia, North Korea which is our single biggest problem right now, it would help a lot. I think they are doing very well with respect to China, they have cut off financing, they have cut off lots of oil and lots of other things, lots of trade and it’s having a big impact. But Russia on the other hand may be making up the difference. And if they are, that’s not a good thing. So having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing especially as it relates to North Korea.”
“Hillary had her stupid reset button that she spelled the word wrong, but she does not have what it takes to have that kind of relationship where you could call or you could do something. But this is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia. He says that very strongly, he really seems to be insulted by it and he says he didn’t do it. He is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. 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.
Why is this significant?
For Trump to say that he believes Putin's denials, Trump would publicly be splitting from the U.S. intelligence community, which has determined that Russian operatives attempted to interfere in last year's election.