U.S. President Donald Trump while in Helsinki, Finland for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin refuted allegations and findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections and labelled the investigation as a “witch hunt”.
“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. 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.”
Trump made the disclosure during a joint press conference with Putin. He further added that both he and Putin felt it was a “shame” the investigation clouded the relationship between the United States and Russia:
“It’s the thing that he told me when he went in. He said, ‘What a shame’. He felt it was very hard for me to make a deal because, you know, all of this nonsense. We’ve had a phony witch hunt deal drive us apart.”
Putin likewise denied allegations that Russia had “kompromat” or compromising materials on President Trump:
“We don’t have anything on them, and there can’t be anything on them. I don’t want to insult President Trump when I say this – and I may come across as rude – but before he announced that he will run for presidency, he was of no interest to us.
“He was a rich person, but well, there’s plenty of rich persons in the United States. But no, it would never occur to anyone that he would think of running for president. He never mentioned his political ambitions.”
President Trump also criticized FBI agent Peter Strzok who exchanged anti-Trump texts before the 2016 elections. Trump called Strzok who has since been reassigned from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team, “a disgrace”.
In his interview with Fox Analyst Sean Hannity, Trump revealed that contrary to international opinion, he and Putin were not “very far apart’ regarding Syria.
The international community has condemned Putin for openly supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.