Trump said he believes what Vladimir Putin told him this weekend about Russia's election interference. But Putin says that conversation never happened.
Donald Trump said Saturday that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin this weekend and believes him when he says the Kremlin didn’t interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
But according to Putin, that conversation never even took place.
Trump made the comments after an unscheduled meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam this weekend.
Taking Putin’s word over the collective assessment of the entire U.S. intelligence community, Trump called the investigation into Russian inference a “Democratic hit job” and said he “really believe[s]” Putin’s denials regarding election interference.
“[Putin] said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump told reporters, according to NBC News.
Trump said Putin repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in the U.S. democratic process.
“And I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said.
After letting Trump go on camera and recite pro-Russia talking points, the Kremlin released their own statement saying the conversation about the 2016 election never even took place.
Trump and Putin did not discuss Russian meddling during their 5-minute chat, Kremlin says
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 11, 2017
Since Trump ditched the press for his covert meeting with Putin, we have no contemporaneous account of what they discussed.
Putin knows this, and he’s using it to his advantage.
After Trump defended Putin’s word and denigrated the U.S. intelligence community, Putin humiliated Trump by denying that he ever spoke those words.
This is not the first time Putin has pulled one over on Trump.
Over the summer, the two men held a secret meeting in Hamburg, Germany, after which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that Trump had accepted Putin’s denials about election interference. Trump administration officials said the account was not accurate, but Lavrov had already beaten them to the punch.
As we saw this weekend, Trump still hasn’t learned his lesson — and Putin couldn’t be happier about it.