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President Donald Trump said "it would be great if we could get along with Russia," as he contrasted his willingness to be friendly with Moscow to the policies of his presidential predecessors.
"Tomorrow, you'll say, 'Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, that's terrible,' " Trump said sarcastically to reporters at a White House press conference Thursday.
"It's not terrible. It's good," Trump said.
"If we could get along with Russia, that's a positive thing."
"You've had a lot of presidents that haven't taken that tack," Trump said. "Look where we are."
Trump's comments on Russia came after reports that people in his presidential campaign had been in contact with Russian intelligence officials last year, and after he fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for not telling Vice President Mike Pence details of a conversation Flynn had in January with Russia's ambassador to Washington.
Trump for months has been dogged by claims that he is too sympathetic to Russia and the nation's autocratic leader Vladimir Putin.
On Thursday, in a rambling series of remarks, he suggested that he would gain politically if he was antagonistic toward Russia instead of being open to a friendlier relationship.
"The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water," Trump said, referring to a Russian spy vessel that has been lurking off Connecticut, not far from a key Navy submarine base.
"Everyone in this country's going to say, 'Oh, that's great!' " Trump said. "It's not great."
And Trump said that even if he did what he believes that some people, including the media, want him to do, he would end up getting criticized for it.
"If I was just brutal right now with Russia — just brutal — people would say, 'Oh, that's wonderful,' " the president scoffed. "But I know you well enough, then you would say, 'Oh, he was too tough, he shouldn't have done that.' "
Trump also said that while "I love to negotiate, I do it really well ... it's possible that I may not be able to get along with Putin."
Trump then lashed out at reporters, as he did earlier in the press conference, when he accused them of printing "very fake news" based on illegal leaks by people in the federal government.
"The fake, horrible reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia," Trump said.