Trump ‘believes’ Putin’s denial of meddling in US election
US president thinks Putin ‘insulted’ by allegations that Moscow helped him get elected
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on a flight leaving from an international summit in Vietnam, Mr Trump said the two world leaders had “two or three very short conversations”.
Mr Trump did not respond to a direct question on whether he believed Mr Putin’s denial was accurate but then appeared to say he found the former KGB’s agents words convincing.
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. 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,” Mr Trump said.
“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’,” he added, saying he believed the Russian president was “very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country”.
Several US intelligence agencies have already concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election to try to help Mr Trump win.
A five-month investigation by the US special counsel Robert Mueller has been examining whether the president was compromised by a foreign power and if Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian agents.
The former foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous has pleaded guilty to perjury over his contacts with Russians linked to the Kremlin while the president’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and another aide face charges of money laundering.
Mr Trump has repeatedly said that he does not believe Russia actively sought to help him.
On the plane on Saturday, the president also blamed Democrats for what he called an “artificial barrier” that he said prevented him from developing a better relationship with Mr Putin.
Trump had scheduled no formal meetings with Mr Putin during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, though the two exchanged a jovial handshake at the gala dinner on Friday and stood next to one another in a “family photo” of the leaders on Saturday.
Earlier, Mr Putin had dismissed accusations that Moscow had meddled in the US elections as “fantasies” intended to undermine Mr Trump.
“Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of continuing domestic political struggle,” Mr Putin said at the Apec summit.
Mr Putin was asked if he had followed the mounting investigation into alleged contacts between Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russians, including a woman who claimed to be Mr Putin’s niece.
“Regarding some sort of connections of my relatives with members of the administration or some officials, I only found out about that yesterday from [his spokesman Dmitry] Peskov,” the Russian president said.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “I think these are some sort of fantasies.”
Earlier the Kremlin said Mr Putin and Mr Trump had agreed that there was no military solution to the conflict in Syria and a political resolution was needed.
Mr Putin and Mr Trump had agreed to continue joint efforts to fight Islamic State, the Kremlin statement said.
They confirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and called on all parties to the Syrian conflict to take an active part in the Geneva political process, it said.
Moscow and Washington agree that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, according to the text of the joint statement published on the Kremlin’s website.