U.S. President Donald Trump said he is “with” intelligence agencies in their finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
Speaking at a news conference in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Sunday, Trump said he backs the findings of current intelligence agency staff, but also believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials are sincere.
“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said of Putin. “As to whether I believe it or not, I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with the leadership.”
Trump had previously been critical of former U.S. intelligence personnel including former CIA Director John Brennan, fired FBI Director James Comey, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, referring to them as “political hacks.”
Members of the U.S. intelligence community have concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 campaign, specifically by stealing thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee, contradicting statements made by the Russian president.
Trump’s comments backing the agencies came after he told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday Putin repeatedly told him he didn’t meddle in the 2016 elections.
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said of Putin. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times… He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
Trump also said he believed his remarks on the situation were “obvious to everybody,” adding he would rather focus on other issues than “stand and start arguing” with Putin in the presence of reporters and other media.
“What I believe is we have to get to work,” he said. “People don’t realize, Russia has been very, very heavily sanctioned. They were sanctioned at a very high level. And that took place very recently. It’s now time to get back to healing a world that is shattered and broken.”
Trump also took to Twitter to discuss his meeting with Putin, addressing “haters” and fools” he said fail to see the value of a positive relationship with Russia.
“I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!” he wrote.
By Daniel Uria