Donald Trump on Saturday appeared to pander to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s whim, telling reporters aboard Air Force One that he believed Putin’s sincerity in denying any Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States, and that he was “not going to get into an argument” with Putin over the issue.
A January report from the intelligence community in the U.S. concluded that Russia meddled with the elections to boost Trump’s position and discredit his rival candidate, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump was evasive about the issue despite at least two conversations with Putin while in Vietnam on Saturday.
He has now cast doubt on the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community report, in the process increasing friction between himself and the community, including former agency heads.
Trump’s multi-leg tour of Asia took him through a mess of political entanglement as he addressed several issues in the region.
Trump had more than one conversation with the Russian president during the APEC summit, but no formal meeting as part of the summit itself.
He behaved in an evasive manner on questions about his believing Putin’s denial of the meddling issue.
At one point he turned on his own intel officials and called them “political hacks”.
In the same interview he told the media that he believed Putin was sincere, and that the Russian leader was being “insulted” by repeated questions on the matter.