Putin pleads ignorance on Trump campaign meetings – The Hill (blog)

Russian President Vladimir Putin claims to have no knowledge of any 2016 meetings between members of his government and President Trump’s campaign.

During an interview on the debut episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly,” Putin again insisted that claims of Moscow interfering in last year’s election are false.

“I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election in the United States,” he said.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian president ordered interference in the vote with the intention of helping to election Trump. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been appointed to probe the meddling and any possible coordination between Trump’s team and the Kremlin. 

“There were no meetings,” Putin said. “When I saw this my jaw dropped.”

Multiple Trump aides, including Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsPutin pleads ignorance on Trump campaign meetings LA mayor: Immigration arrests could cause a ‘tinderbox’ Trump FBI director interviews ‘chaotic’: report MORE and senior adviser Jared Kushner, are reported to have had meetings with Russian officials they failed to mention during Senate hearings or on security clearance forms. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was forced to resign after it was revealed he misled Vice President Pence about the content of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

When pressed by Kelly if there were any meetings between Kislyak and the Trump campaign, Putin said, “I have no idea.”

“I’m being completely honest with you. I don’t know. The routine job of an ambassador — do you think that from all over the world, or from the United States, the ambassador reports to me every day who he meets with or what they discuss there? That’s complete nonsense.”

Putin has repeatedly denied direct Russian influence in the U.S. election, but said in clips from the interview released earlier this week he said he wouldn’t put the task past a “patriotic” Russian hacker.

The Russian leader suggested to Kelly that the U.S. could be responsible for framing Russia in the aftermath of the election.

“Hackers can be anywhere,” Putin said. “They can even be hackers, by the way, in the United States, who very skillfully and professionally shifted the blame, as we say, on to Russia.”

Putin also pinned blame on the U.S. for interfering in other foreign elections.

“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but the United States, everywhere, all over the world actively interferes in the electoral campaigns of other countries,” he said.

“We don’t care who’s the head of the United States. We know more or less what is going to happen. And so in this regard, even if we wanted to, it wouldn’t make sense for us to interfere,” he continued.

The Russian leader also denied having any information on Trump’s financial connections to Russia, despite questions that have arisen from a Russian dossier, that alleges the Russian had compromising information about Trump and that his campaign colluded with the Kremlin. 

“This is just another load of nonsense. Where would we get this information from? Why, did we have some special relationship with him?” he said.

“We didn’t have any relationship at all. There was a time when he used to come to Moscow. But you know, I never met with him.” 

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