President Vladimir Putin feels insulted by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, US President Donald Trump said after meeting him briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam. The two presidents agreed on a statement about Syria, calling for the continuation of the peace talks and for all sides to come to the negotiating table.
Trump and Putin talked on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, and the subject of last year’s US election was allegedly raised by the US President.
“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “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,” Trump said on Air Force One leaving Vietnam.
Trump calls intelligence agencies heads “political hacks”
President Trump has refused to acknowledge a reported assessment by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the run-up to 2016 presidential election.
“And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks. So you look at it — I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker,” POTUS said.
The US justice department has appointed special investigator Robert Mueller to examine any possible collusion involving Trump’s team, and legal action has already been taken against several former aides.
Denials from Kremlin
Denying that Russia had tried to interfere last year by fostering contacts with Trump’s campaign, Putin told reporters in Vietnam: “Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of a continuing domestic political struggle.”
Putin also rejected any Russian connection to the recently indicted former campaign manager of President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort. Manafort is charged with offenses including failing to register as a foreign agent while advising the party of Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-friendly Ukrainian president who was ousted amid massive street protests in 2014.
The Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the Russian President flatly denied any interference in the US presidential election.
“Trump really raised the topic of so-called interference in US elections. Putin categorically rejected even the hypothetical possibility that Russia could have in some way interfered in the U.S. electoral process,” he was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling reporters after CNN quoted him saying that the subject wasn’t brought up during the talks.
Putin also said that there is an urgent need for formal meetings with Trump.
“It’s important that we find an opportunity, with our teams, to sit down at the level of presidents and talk through our complex relations. Our relations are still in crisis. Russia is ready to turn the page and move on,” he claims.
That sentiment seems to also be on the Trump’s side, and he highlighted the importance of Washington and Moscow handling biggest global threats. He also called the Russia investigation an “artificial obstacle” and added “people will die because of it, and it’s a pure hit job”.
“Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine,” Trump explains.
Joint statement on Syria
The two sides did get to some agreement, releasing a joint statement about the situation in Syria. It reaffirms the leaders’ commitment to defeat ISIS in the country, stresses the need to keep existing military communications open and agrees that the bloody conflict does not have a military solution, CNN reports.
The Kremlin said their statement on Syria was coordinated especially for the meeting in Danang. With Islamic State having suffered losses in Syria and beyond, greater attention is turning to the broader conflict between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel factions.
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.