Full Transcript of Trump’s Remarks on Russia
President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that President Vladimir V. Putin’s reassurances that Russia did not meddle in the American election appeared sincere.
President Trump spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One on his way to Hanoi, Vietnam, where he attended a state dinner Saturday evening. While talking to the reporters, he was asked about his private meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin on the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Danang, Vietnam. Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin was sincere in his denials of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and that questions about Moscow’s meddling were a politically motivated “hit job.”
Following is a transcript of those comments, as prepared by the White House. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
REPORTER: How were your discussions with Vladimir Putin? Did you discuss Syria? And apparently they’ve issued a joint statement that —
TRUMP: We issued a joint statement. We’re going to be — have you seen the statement yet?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House press secretary: It’s going out — it’s on the way.
TRUMP: So I think it’ll go out. You’ll see it in a little while.
SANDERS: It may be out, now that you guys — now that we’re in the air.
TRUMP: It’s going to save tremendous numbers of lives. And we did that very quickly. We agreed very quickly.
As you know, we saw each other last night just for a picture, and that was the first time. And then today we had a round table with numerous countries. You have a list of the countries, obviously. Right? You have a list.
And we spoke intermittently during that round table. We seem to have a very good feeling for each other and a good relationship considering we don’t know each other well. I think it’s a very good relationship.
We had two or three very short conversations because of the meeting, the fact that we’re at a meeting. But during those conversations, we talked about Syria and de-conflicting, etc. You know, we have areas where troops are facing — our troops — I mean, their troops are facing our troops and there’s nothing in between.
And we issued a statement — a joint statement. It was just approved, and I think people are going to be extremely happy with it and also very impressed with it.
REPORTER: Did Russia’s attempts to meddle in U.S. elections come up in the conversation?
TRUMP: He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. But I just asked him again, and he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they’re saying he did. And he said —
REPORTER: Do you believe him?
TRUMP: Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him. I’d rather have him get out of Syria, to be honest with you. I’d rather have him — you know, work with him on the Ukraine than standing and arguing about whether or not — because that whole thing was set up by the Democrats.
I mean, they ought to look at Podesta. They ought to look at all of the things that they’ve done with the phony dossier. Those are the big events. Those are the big events.
But Putin said he did not do what they said he did. And, you know, there are those that say, if he did do it, he wouldn’t have gotten caught, all right? Which is a very interesting statement. But we have a — you know, we have a good feeling toward getting things done.
If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing. In fact, it would be a great thing, not a bad thing. Because he could really help us in North Korea. We have a big problem with North Korea. And China is helping us. And because of the lack of a relationship that we have with Russia because of this artificial thing that’s happening with this Democratic-inspired thing, we could really be helped a lot, tremendously, with Russia having to do with North Korea.
And, you know, you’re talking about millions and millions of lives. This isn’t baby stuff. This is the real deal. And if Russia helped us, in addition to China, that problem would go away a lot faster.
REPORTER: How did you bring up the issue of election meddling? Did you ask him a question?
TRUMP: He just — every time he sees me, he says, “I didn’t do that.” And I believe — I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, “I didn’t do that.” I think he’s very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.
Don’t forget, all he said is he never did that, he didn’t do that. I think he’s very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country. Because again, if we had a relationship with Russia, North Korea — which is our single biggest problem right now — North Korea, it would be helped a lot. I think I’m doing very well with respect to China. They’ve cut off financing; they’ve cut off bank lines; they’ve cut off lots of oil and lots of other things, lots of trade. And it’s having a big impact. But Russia, on the other hand, may be making up the difference. And if they are, that’s not a good thing.
So having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing — not a good thing — it would be a great thing, especially as it relates to North Korea.
And I’ll say this, Hillary had her stupid reset button that she spelled the word wrong, but she doesn’t have what it takes to have that kind of a relationship where you could call or you could do something and they would pull back from North Korea, or they’d pull back from Syria, or maybe pull back from Ukraine. I mean, if we could solve the Ukraine problem —
But this is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia, and he says that very strongly. He really seems to be insulted by it, and he says he didn’t do it. So —
REPORTER: (Inaudible) do you believe him —
TRUMP: Excuse me?
REPORTER: Even if he (inaudible) one-on-one, do you believe him?
TRUMP: I think that he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. And then you look, and you look at what’s going on with Podesta, and you look at what’s going on with the server from the D.N.C. and why didn’t the F.B.I. take it, why did they leave it, why did a third party look at the server and not the FBI — if you look at all of this stuff, and you say, what’s going on here?
And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks.
So you look at it — I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker.
So you look at that, and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that. Now, you’re not going to get into an argument. You’re going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.