Trump defends election meddling remarks to Putin

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE on Saturday defended his remarks to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussia says coronavirus vaccine will be ready for doctors in two weeks Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling Fauci: 'I seriously doubt' Russia's coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective MORE in which he appeared to make light of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"You have to take a look at the word. I did say it," Trump said during a news conference at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Osaka, Japan.

Trump said Saturday during a news conference that he and Putin had a “tremendous discussion” and suggested election interference came up at another point during their conversation, adding: "I did say it, and I did discuss it a little bit after that, too.”

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A White House readout issued after the roughly 90-minute meeting between Trump and Putin on Friday made no mention of election interference.

Trump had met with Putin Friday where he was pressed by journalists on whether he would tell Russia not to interfere in U.S. elections.

“Yes, of course, I will. Don’t meddle in the election, please. Don’t meddle in the election,” Trump said, pointing to Putin and flashing a grin.

Putin appeared to chuckle in response.

The exchange drew sharp criticism from those who have accused Trump of being too friendly with Putin.

Trump’s meeting with Putin marked the first time the two met face-to-face since former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE finished his nearly two-year probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In an interview this week with the Financial Times, Putin dismissed Mueller's findings, saying it was “strange" that Russia was still being accused of interference. He also praised Trump as “talented” while adding that "the liberal idea has become obsolete."

Trump and Putin also shared a laugh during the summit over frustration with journalists, with Trump saying, "Fake news is a great term, isn't it? You don't have this problem in Russia, but we do."

Putin responded in English: "We also have. It's the same."

Numerous critics of Putin and Russian journalists have turned up dead over the years in Russia, and the country ranks toward the bottom among all nations in terms of press freedom, according to the World Press Freedom Index.

Trump regularly derides coverage he dislikes as "fake news" and has labeled specific news outlets the "enemy of the people."