Putin denies connection to Manafort, Wilbur Ross

Putin denies connection to Manafort, Wilbur Ross
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday denied any connections between his country and President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, claiming that such ties are false rumors being propagated by the U.S. leader's political opponents.

During a briefing at the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam, Putin also dismissed reports that Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossOvernight Finance: House passes sweeping tax bill in huge victory for GOP | Senate confirms banking regulator | Mulvaney eyed for interim head of consumer agency Wilbur Ross sued by former colleagues Bloomberg drops estimate of Commerce secretary's wealth to 0M MORE holds a stake in a company that does business with a Russian company with possible ties to the Russian president's son-in-law, according to multiple reports.

"This is nothing more than business. It never had and does not have any relation with politics," Putin said, according to The Associated Press.

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Manafort was indicted in late October on charges that included money laundering, tax evasion and failing to register with the U.S. government as a foreign agent.

The indictment represented the first charges filed in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump campaign associates and Russia's election interference. However, the charges were not directly related to Manafort's role in the Trump campaign.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty. 

Mueller has been leading the federal probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 race since May. The probe is examining possible collusion between Trump campaign members and Russia.

Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination with Russia. Likewise, Putin has insisted that the Russian government did not meddle in the election. The U.S. intelligence community, however, has concluded that Moscow did try to disrupt the race and sway it in Trump's favor.

After speaking with Putin on the sidelines of the APEC summit on Saturday, Trump said that the Russian president denied once again that Moscow interfered in the election, and that Putin was "very insulted" by the allegation.

“Every time he sees me, he said: ‘I didn’t do that,’" Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Hanoi, Vietnam. "And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it."