Trump dodges on whether he accepted Putin’s hacking denial

Trump dodges on whether he accepted Putin’s hacking denial
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President Trump on Wednesday evening dodged a question on whether he accepted Vladimir Putin’s denial of Russia’s involvement in the interference campaign directed at the 2016 presidential election.

Trump met with the Russian president on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg last Friday, after which he said that he pressed Putin twice on Russia’s attempts to influence the presidential election. Following the meeting, Putin said that Trump appeared to accept his denial of involvement — which White House officials later disputed.

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Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to France, Trump again said that he pressed the Russian president twice on whether Moscow was involved in the cyber and disinformation campaign aimed at the election. 

“I said to him, were you involved with the meddling in the election? He said, absolutely not. I was not involved. He was very strong on it. I then said to him again, in a totally different way, were you involved with the meddling. He said, I was not — absolutely not.” 

Trump repeatedly described Putin’s denial as “strong.”

When asked whether he told Putin that he believed him, Trump dodged the question. 

“What I said, I asked him, were you involved? He said, very strongly — said to him a second time — totally different — were you involved? Because we can’t let that happen,” Trump said. “And I mean whether it’s Russia or anybody else, we can’t let there be even a scintilla of doubt when it comes to an election.

“And I’m not saying it wasn’t Russia,” Trump added. “What I’m saying is that we have to protect ourselves no matter who it is.” 

Trump has on numerous occasions appeared to cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Moscow was behind the hacks of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden slams Trump over golf gif hitting Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Overnight Tech: Equifax hit by earlier undisclosed hack | Facebook takes heat over Russian ads | Alt-right Twitter rival may lose domain MORE campaign chairman John Podesta. 

Following the meeting in Germany last week, Putin told reporters that Trump seemed to accept his assertion that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. election. 

“He asked a lot of questions on this matter,” the Russian president said. “I answered as many as I could answer. I think he took it into consideration and agreed with it. But you should ask him what his opinion is on that.” 

On Thursday, a reporter asked whether Trump was angry at Putin for “lying” about the meeting — a characterization the American president disputed.

“He didn’t say that,” Trump said. “He said, I think he accepted it, but you’d have to ask him. That’s a big difference.” 

Trump went on to raise alarm about the sophistication of China and North Korea in the cyber realm. 

“Look what they did to Sony Studios,” he said, referring to the 2014 cyberattacks on Sony Pictures traced to North Korean hackers. “You know, we’re dealing with highly sophisticated people.” 

The president was in France on Thursday meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.