President Trump on Monday said he would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin following a morning call into “Fox & Friends,” offering a lengthy defense of his effort to forge a relationship with Russia.

“Right after this call I’m speaking to a gentleman named Vladimir Putin. That’s my next call,” Trump told the Fox News hosts when asked about uncertainty in the oil market sparked by a feud between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Trump said he would discuss oil with Putin, as well as trade, potentially the situation in Venezuela and the coronavirus pandemic.

But even as that outbreak has killed thousands of Americans, Trump defended his attitude toward Russia and lamented former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. That inquiry concluded nearly a year ago.

“We talk about trade and we talk about trade a lot,” Trump said. “They love to be able to do trade with our country. It’s been very much hindered by the nonsense that’s been going on. Russia, Russia, Russia, which has turned out to be a total hoax when you look at what happened with Comey and McCabe and you look at all the things that happened with Mueller and the Mueller report.

“We should get along with all countries if possible,” he continued. “There’s a lot of things that Russia’s involved with, that China’s involved with, and nobody talks to these people.”

Trump has drawn criticism for repeatedly offering praise for Putin and downplaying the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The president on Monday pushed back on critics who argue he has been too soft with Russia, citing sanctions that he has approved against the country. He did not directly answer a question about what he would say if Putin asked for those sanctions to be lifted.

Instead, Trump discussed how Russia was a U.S. ally during World War II.

“I’m not saying they’re babies. I’m not saying they’re perfect … but you know they also fought World War II,” Trump said. “They lost 50 million people. They were our partner in World War II. Germany was the enemy, and Germany is like this wonderful thing. Well, Germany takes advantage of us on trade for years, they pay far too little in NATO … and nobody talks about that.

“I’m not saying anything wrong, I’m just saying how come we talk to some people, we don’t talk to others,” he added.

The president earlier in the wide-ranging interview shrugged off a question about Russia, China and Iran engaging in disinformation campaigns around the coronavirus that specifically targeted the U.S. He instead ripped The Washington Post, which Fox host Brian Kilmeade cited in raising the question, and suggested spreading disinformation was commonplace.

“They do it and we do it, and we call them different things,” Trump said, citing his past use of the term “Chinese virus.”

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Fox News oil Oil prices Robert Mueller Russia Russia interference Trump-Putin relationship Vladimir Putin

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