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Trump, Putin Discuss Charges Of Russian Interference In 2016 U.S. Election

Jul 16, 2018
Originally published on July 16, 2018 12:56 pm
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NOEL KING, HOST:

We have breaking news this morning out of Helsinki, where President Donald Trump has now wrapped up his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This meeting went on longer than expected, and the two leaders are now in the middle of a joint press conference. Let's hear a little bit of that. We don't actually have any tape of that press conference, but we do have some idea of what they have said. And with me to help explain is NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, how are you?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Noel.

KING: All right. So Trump and Putin in the middle of an extended press conference, going on something like 45 minutes here - what have we heard so far of note?

HORSLEY: Well, the president said that he did spend a good deal of time during his meeting with Vladimir Putin talking about Russia's role interfering in the 2016 election. The president said that he did spend a good deal of time during his meeting with Vladimir Putin talking about Russia's role interfering in the 2016 election. The president said he thought it was important to bring that up in person with Putin. And he also gave Putin an opportunity to address those concerns directly.

Now, we know that Vladimir Putin in his comments once again categorically denied any role. According to the interpreter, Putin said the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process. So this is sort of the third go-round we've had on this subject. The president had a similar encounter with Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, last summer on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting, and he raised this issue again when they met at the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam, in the fall.

The president knows that the suspicion of Russian interference in the 2016 election is always going to be a cloud, and he says it makes it very difficult for him to conduct diplomatic relations with Russia. In fact, when this summit was first announced last month, his - Trump's national security adviser was at a news conference in Moscow, kind of ironing out the details, and said, look; the president knows he's going to have to endure some political noise around this. Any time Trump reaches out to Putin, there is a concern that he's somehow doing the bidding of the guy who pulled the strings in the 2016 election. But both Bolton and the president himself have said they're willing to overlook that because they feel like this diplomatic process is important.

KING: I'm going - I'm being told that we do have some tape of the press conference - from this press conference that's currently ongoing - about this question of collusion and meddling in the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: There was no collusion. I didn't know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign.

KING: Simply not surprising at this point, right?

HORSLEY: No. I mean, this is sort of asked and answered.

KING: Is this likely to satisfy the president's critics in Washington, D.C.?

HORSLEY: No. I don't think it's likely to satisfy them. And frankly, what's going to be probably more interesting is some of the other news or non-news that comes out of this news conference. You know, what did the president say when it came to joint military exercises in the Baltics, which is an irritant to Russia? Did Trump say that the U.S. would halt those exercises the way he agreed to halt exercises with South Korea when he met with Kim Jong Un last month? What did the president say about Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea? Did he repeat his claim that maybe Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia because a lot of people there speak Russian?

KING: Yeah.

HORSLEY: The very first question, which came from a Russian reporter, was about Russia supplying energy to Europe, which was an issue that the president raised forcefully last week just before the NATO summit. He was very unhappy with Russia supplying gas to Germany, but his anger seemed to be directed not at Russia, but at Germany - once again, an interesting position for a U.S. president to be in.

KING: All right. This press conference is still going on. We'll keep following it. NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Thank you so much, Scott.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.