Russian President Vladimir Putin denied his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections at a joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland on Monday, while President Donald Trump emphasized he defeated Hillary Clinton because he ran a better campaign.
When asked about meddling in U.S. elections, Putin said that Trump raised the issue with him.
Trump had promised to do so in media events leading up to the summit with his Russian counterpart.
At a news conference in England on Friday, the U.S. president told reporters he did not anticipate a “Perry Mason” moment with an admission by Putin of wrongdoing.
“President Trump mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections,” Putin said on Monday.
“I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including election process,” he continued.
“Any specific material, if such things arise, we are willing to analyze together,” Putin added.
Putin: "The Russian state has never interfered, and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process." pic.twitter.com/HkSMopFxyn
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 16, 2018
In response to the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Putin stated his willingness to allow U.S. law enforcement to interface directly with their Russian counterparts to investigate the matter.
The indictment read by Rosenstein alleged that the Russian officers hacked into Democratic Party servers and email accounts in an attempt to influence the outcome of the presidential race.
Putin said it would be a matter for the U.S. courts to ultimately decide and not the executive branches of the United States or Russia.
Trump also spoke to the matter.
“I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections,” Trump said, according to the New York Times. “I felt this was a matter best discussed in person. President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.”
In his prepared opening remarks, Trump defended his decision to meet with Putin.
“Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything,” he said.
“As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media, or Democrats who don’t want to do anything but resist and obstruct,” Trump added.
Trump: "My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be." pic.twitter.com/p6kfkGw5pC
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 16, 2018
When asked if he would denounce Putin, Trump said, “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today and what he did is an incredible offer.
The president added, “He offered to have the people working on the case, come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that is an incredible offer.”
Trump also stated he wants to know what happened to the Democratic National Committee’s server that was allegedly hacked into by Russians.
“I want to know where is the server?” he said. “I want to know what is the server saying.”
“Why was the FBI asked to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?” Trump questioned. “I’ve been asking that for months and months.”
The president clearly sees special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe as a means for Democrats to delegitimize his election victory over Clinton.
“That was a clean campaign,” Trump said. “I beat Hillary Clinton easily, and frankly we beat her. We won that race and it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. The main thing and we discussed this also: zero collusion.”
“There was no collusion,” he added. “I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with.”
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