President Donald Trump said he addressed the Kremlin’s interference in U.S. elections in a Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin on Monday and the Russian leader proposed “an interesting idea” in response.
Trump said “I addressed the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person.” The two leaders “spent a great deal of time talking about it,” he said.
Putin “felt very strongly about it and has an interesting idea,” Trump said.
Putin again denied that Moscow ever interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and proposed an “expert council” to improve relations between the countries.
“Once again President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference in the American elections,” Putin said. “I had to reiterate things I said several times. The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere in internal American affairs including the election process.”
Trump faced renewed pressure to confront Putin over its interference in the 2016 election after a grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on Friday. The Russian agents are accused of hacking email accounts controlled by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign and publicizing messages.
But Trump downplayed the notion that there was much to be gained by pressing Putin on the issue, noting the Russian president had repeatedly denied Kremlin involvement. At a press conference Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said not to expect a “Perry Mason” moment where his Russian counterpart owned up to the interference.
Trump said in an interview with CBS News broadcast on Sunday that the idea of asking Putin to extradite the agents hadn’t occurred to him, and he might do it. But he has largely downplayed the indictments, repeatedly noting that the alleged activities occurred during the previous administration.
On Monday, he blamed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s campaign meddling, which produced the indictments, for poor relations between the countries.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded by tweet: “We agree.”
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