Donald Trump says Russia didn't meddle in the presidential election because Vladimir Putin told him so

Donald Trump says he didn't know anything about his son's communications with Russian nationals wanting to help

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published July 13, 2017 7:49AM (EDT)

Vladimir Putin; Donald Trump   (AP/Evan Vucci)
Vladimir Putin; Donald Trump (AP/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump is trying to dismiss the Russia scandal even as investigators within and outside of Congress raise fresh questions.

In an interview with Reuters during which Trump said he didn't know about his son's (Donald Trump Jr.'s) meeting with a Russian lawyer connected to that nation's government "until a couple of days ago," the president also insisted that his son merely acted as many other politicians would have done.

"Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that," Trump said. "If you got a call and said, 'Listen I have information on Hillary and the DNC,' or whatever it was they said, most people are going to take that meeting, I think."

He also claimed that he had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin about alleged election meddling during their conversation.

"First question — first 20, 25 minutes — I said, ‘Did you do it?'" Trump claimed. "He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not.’"

Trump also insisted that he was not too trusting of Putin. "Do I feel I can trust anybody, OK? I’m a very suspicious person. I am not a person that goes around trusting lots of people."

He added, "But he’s the leader of Russia. It is the second most powerful nuclear power on Earth. I am the leader of the United States. I love my country. He loves his country. He’s for Russia."

And, of course, Trump repeated his claim that the only reason Democrats are pursuing this story is out of bitterness over the 2016 election.

"The only frustration is that this Russia story is a hoax made up by the Democrats as an excuse for losing an election that they should have won because it’s almost impossible for a Republican to win the Electoral College," Trump said.

Despite his ongoing frustration with the Russia scandal, all signs point to it not going away. Federal investigators are going to examine conversations held by Russian officials in the spring of 2015 that mentioned associates of Trump but which had previously not received much scrutiny, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. The recent revelations about Donald Trump Jr. have apparently made those meetings relevant in new ways.

Similarly, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are asking questions about an old money-laundering case, according to a report by Bloomberg. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Trump Jr., was involved in that case, which the Justice Department decided to settle in May for $5.9 million, even though the Russian tax fraud case involved $230 million. The Democrats have expressed concern that "the two events may be connected — and that the department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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