WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald J. Trump said on Friday that he discussed “the Russia Hoax” with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin but not raise the concerns that many in his government have with Russian meddling in United States elections.
During their first phone call since the special counsel’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 president campaign was released last month, Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin appeared amused by the entire process.
“He said something to the effect that it started off as mountain and it ended up being a mouse. But he knew that because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever,” the U.S. president told reporters while meeting with the Slovak prime minister.
U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that the Russian government meddled in the election “in a sweeping and systematic fashion”, but did not determine that there was any “coordination” between the Trump campaign and Moscow for the president to win. “Collusion” is not a legal term.
Trump was pushed to answer the question on if he requested Putin not interfere in the upcoming 2020 national elections and the president said the issue was not discussed, saying “we discussed five or six things”.
In a tweet, Trump said he had a “long and very good conversation” with the Russian president, adding that “getting along with Russia, China and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing” — adding that “Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control” were also discussed.
The U.S. president has raised concerns over election interference with Putin in the past but prefers to largely ignore the concerns raised by the U.S. intelligence community in public statements and focus on alleged wrongdoing by former Democratic Party competitor Hillary Clinton.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked by reporters why the president did not raise election interference concerns, to which she replied that Trump has been clear that “no one needs to meddle in our election” and “he doesn’t need to do that every two seconds.”
The Kremlin in Moscow confirmed in a statement that the pair of world leaders had spoken and said that the call had been initiated by the White House, the first time they had talked since the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires where they had an informal discussion.