- U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin answered questions from reporters at their summit in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.
- During the press conference, President Trump said he holds 'both countries responsible' for the decline in relations between Russia and the United States.
- 'I think that the United States has been foolish,' Trump said.
- The summit took place only days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a press conference at their summit in Helsinki, Finland on Monday, where the two leaders discussed issues ranging from Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to nuclear arms proliferation, the war in Syria and cooperation on energy.
The summit took place only days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign.
During the press conference, President Trump declined to denounce Putin over Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In January of 2017, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Putin ordered an "influence campaign" to help Trump's election chances by discrediting his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Trump blamed "both countries" for the strained relations between the United States and Russia during Monday's press conference, saying "the United States has been foolish."
Here is the approximate transcript of the press conference in full:
TRANSLATOR FOR PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Distinguished Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, conversations with the president, Donald Trump, I think we can call it a success and fruitful round of negotiations. We carefully analyzed the current status, the present and future of Russia, United States relationship, key issues of the global agenda.
It is quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationship are going through a complicated stage, yet those impediments, current tension, tense atmosphere essentially have no solid reason behind it.
The Cold War is a thing of the past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of two countries is a vestige of the past. The situation in the world changed dramatically.
Today both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges. Those include a dangerous mal-adjustment of mechanisms for security and instability, regional crises, the creeping threats of terrorism and transnational crime. It is snowballing economy and other challenges.
We can only cope with these challenges if we join ranks and work together. Hopefully, we will reach this understanding with our American partners.
Today’s negotiations reflected our joint wish with President Trump to redress this negative situation in the bilateral relationship. Hopefully, the first steps for improving this relationship to restore the acceptable level of trust and going back to the previous level of indirection on all mutual interests.
As nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security. It is vital, mentioned this in the negotiations, crucial that we fine tune global stability and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We submitted our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions.
We believe it necessary to work together further, to interact on the disarmament agenda. This includes the extension of strategic offensive arms limitation treaty. It is a dangerous situation with the global American anti-missile defense system, implementation issues with the IMF treaty and nonproliferation of weapons in space. We favor continued cooperation in counter terrorism and maintaining cybersecurity. I would like to point out specifically that our special services are cooperating quite successfully.
The most recent example is their operation within recently concluded football World Cup. In general, the contacts among special services should be put to a system-wide basis, should be brought to a systemic framework. I recall, I reminded President Trump about the suggestion to reestablish the working group on anti-terrorism.
We also mentioned a plethora of regional crises, not always that our postures dovetail, and yet mutual interests abound. We have to look for points of contact, interact closer in a variety of international forums.
Clearly we mentioned regional crises, for instance, Syria. As far as Syria is concerned, the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of the successful joint work Russian and the United States apparently can act correctly and take assumed leadership on this issue and organize interaction to overcome humanitarian crisis and help Syrian refugees to go back to their homes.
In order to accomplish this level of successful cooperation in Syria, we have all the required components. Let me remind you both Russian and American military require useful experience of coordination of their action and established operational channels of communication which permit it to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional conditions in the air and near the ground. Also, crushing terrorists in the southwest of Syria should be brought to full compliance with the Treaty of 1974 about separation of forces of Israel and Syria. This will bring peace to Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel and provide security of the state of Israel.
Mr. President, pay special attention to the issues during today’s negotiations, I would like to confirm Russia is interested in this development and thus will act accordingly.
Thus far, we will make a step toward creating a lasting peace in compliance with the respective resolutions of the Security Council; for instance, Resolution 338. We are glad the Korean peninsula issue is starting to resolve. To a great extent, it was possible thanks to personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation. We also mentioned our concern about withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA. Well, our U.S. counterparts are aware of our posture.
Let me remind you, thanks to Iranian nuclear deal, Iran became the most controlled country in the world — submitted to the control of IAEA, effectively ensures the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, strengthens the nonproliferation regime.
While we discuss the internal Ukrainian crisis, we talk about Implementation of agreements by Kiev. At the same time, the United States could be more decisive and nudge the Ukrainian leadership and encourage it to work active.
More attention to economic ties and economic cooperation, it is clear that both countries, business of both countries are interested in this. American delegation was one of the largest delegations in the St. Petersburg economic forum. It featured over 500 representatives of American businesses.
We agreed, me and president Trump, agreed to create high level working group that bring together captains of Russian and American business. After all, entrepreneurs and businessmen know better how to articulate this successful business cooperation. Let them make their proposals and suggestions in this regard. Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections, and I had to reiterate things. I said several times, including during our personal contact, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including election process.
Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together. For instance, analyze through the joint working group of cybersecurity, which we discussed during our previous contacts and clearly it is passed time we restore our cooperation in the cultural area, in the humanitarian area as far as ... I think you know that recently we hosted the American congressional delegation. Now it is perceived and portrayed almost as a historic event, although it should have been a current affairs, just business as usual.
In this record we mentioned this proposal to the president. We have to think about practicalities of cooperation, but also about the logic of it. And we have to engage experts on bilateral relationship who know the history and background of our relationship. The idea is to create an expert council that would include political scientists, diplomats, former military experts in both countries who would look for points of contact between the two countries and look for ways on putting the relationship on the trajectory of growth.
In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full-scale meeting because previously we only have a chance to talk briefly. And I hope we start to understand each other better and I am grateful to Donald. Clearly there are challenges left. I think we made a first important step in this direction.
In conclusion, I want to point out that this atmosphere of cooperation is something that we are especially grateful for. I know we cause some inconvenience to Finland and we apologize for it.
Thank you for your attention.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much.
I just completed a meeting with Vladimir Putin on a wide range of issues for our countries. We opened deeply productive dialogue. Went very well. Before I begin, I want to thank the president of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit. President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did.
I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job hosting the World Cup. It was one of the best ever. Your team also did very well. It was a great job.
I am here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy, from the earliest days of the Republic, our leaders understand that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility. Productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world.
Disagreements between the two countries are well known. President Putin and I discussed them at length today. But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we’re going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests.
Too often in both recent past and long ago we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table. We have also seen the benefits of cooperation. In the last century, our nations fought alongside one another in the second World War. Even during tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue.
But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.
Nothing would be easier, politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage, but that would not accomplish anything. As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct.Constructive dialogue with the United States and Russia forwarded the opportunity for new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.
I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.
As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people. During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person, spent a great deal of time talking about it. And President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.
We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation. I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on denuclearization of North Korea. And after today I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem, going to work with us, and I appreciate that commitment. The president and I also discuss the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism. Both Russia and the United States has suffered horrific terrorist attacks. We agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace. Last year we told Russia about a planned attack in St. Petersburg, and they were able to stop it cold. They found them, they stopped them, there was no doubt about it. I appreciated President Putin’s phone call afterwards to thank me. I also emphasize the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East. As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one. Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against Isis.
We have just about eradicated Isis in the area. We also agreed that representatives from our national security councils will meet to follow-up on the issues we addressed today and to continue the progress we started here in Helsinki.
Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process, but we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought. Our expectations are grounded in realism, but our hopes are grounded in Americans’ desire for friendship, cooperation, and peace. And I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that also.
President Putin, I want to thank you again for joining me for these important discussions and for advancing open dialogue between Russia and the United States. Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia, the United States, for the greater good of all, and this was a very constructive day. This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together It’s in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation and we have agreed to do so.I’m sure we’ll be meeting again In the future often and hopefully we will solve every one of the problems we discussed today.
So again, President Putin, thank you very much.
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: The journalists have a chance to ask questions...
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: I have a question to President Trump. During your recent European tour, you mentioned that implementation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline makes Europe hostage of Russia and you suggested that you could free Europe from this by supplying American LNG [liquefied natural gas, natural gas super-chilled to its liquid form so that it can be sent by ship for export].
This cold winter actually showed the current model, current mechanism of supply of fuel to Europe is quite viable. At the same time, as far as I know, the U.S. had to buy Russian gas for Boston. I have a question. The implementation of your idea, has a political tinge or is it a practical one? Because there will be a gap formed in the supply and demand mechanism and first, consuming countries that fall into the gap.
Second question, before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary, a rival, yet you expressed hope that you will be able to bring this relationship to a new level. Did you manage to do this?
TRUMP: Actually, I called him a competitor, and a good competitor he is. I think the word “competitor” is a compliment. I think that we will be competing when you talk about the pipeline.
I’m not sure necessarily that it is in the best interests of Germany or not, but that was a decision that they made.
We’ll be competing. As you know, the United States is now, or soon will be, but I think it actually is right now, the largest in the oil and gas world, so we’re going to be selling LNG and competing with the pipeline. We’ll compete successfully although there’s a little advantage, locationly.
I discussed with Angela Merkel in strong tones, but I also know where they’re all coming from, and they have a very close source so we’ll see how that all works out. But we have lots of sources now, and the United States is much different than it was a number of years ago when we weren’t able to extract what we can extract today. So today we’re number one in the world at that, and I think we’ll be out there competing very strongly. Thank you very much.
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: If I may, we talked to Mr. President, including this subject as well. We are aware of the stance of President Trump and I think that we as a major oil and gas power and United States as major oil and gas power as well, we could work together on regulation of international markets because neither of us is actually interested in plummeting of the prices. And the consumers will suffer as well, and the consumers in the United States will suffer as well, and shale gas production will suffer beyond a sudden price break.
It is no longer profitable to produce gas, but nor are we interested in driving prices up because it will drain juices from other sectors of the economy. So we do have space for cooperation here. That’s the first thing then about the North Stream, too. Mr. President voiced his concerns about the possibility of disappearance of transit through Ukraine. I reassured Mr. President that Russia stands ready to maintain this transit. Moreover, we stand ready to extend this transit contract that’s about to expire next year. In case if the dispute between the economic entities, dispute will be settled in Stockholm arbitration court.
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it is U.S. foolishness, stupidity and the Mueller probe that’s responsible for decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular, and if so, what would you consider that they are responsible for?
TRUMP: Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago — long time, frankly, before I got to office, and I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia, we’re getting together and we have a chance to do great things; whether it is nuclear proliferation — in terms of stopping, have to do it. Ultimately, that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.
But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it kept us apart; it kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore — so far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign, and they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. It was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. And, frankly, we beat her, and I’m not even saying from the standpoint. We won that race and it is a shame there can be even a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that, people understand it.
But the main thing — and we discussed this also — is zero collusion. And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It is ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: If I could follow-up as well: Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election given the evidence that U.S. Intelligence agencies have provided, and will you consider extraditing 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by A U.S. grand jury?
TRUMP: I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question, but as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little before, but came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election which frankly they should have been able to win because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans.
We won the electoral college by a lot: 306 to 223, I believe, and that was a well-fought battle. We did a great job and, frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question, but just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign.
Every time you hear these 12 and 14, it is stuff that has nothing to do, and frankly they admit, these are not people involved in the campaign. To the average reader out there, they’re saying maybe that does. It doesn’t. And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories, in one case the FBI said there was no lie, there was no lie. Somebody else said there was.
We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president. Thank you.
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: As to who is to be believed and who is not to be believed, you can trust no one. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interest of the United States of America and I do defend the interest of the Russian Federation.
We do have interests in common, looking for points of contact. The right issues diverge and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences, how to make our effort more meaningful. We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries.
We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned.
Yes, the public at large in the United States had a certain perceived opinion of the candidates during the campaign There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it. It is the usual thing.
President Trump, when he was a candidate, he mentioned the need to restore the Russia-U.S. relationship and it is clear that a certain part of American society felt sympathetic about It, and different people could express their sympathy in different ways. Isn’t that natural to be sympathetic towards a person who Is willing to restore the relationship with our country? Who wants to work with us?
We heard accusations about Concorde Company. As far as I know, this company hired American lawyers and the accusations don’t have a fighting chance in the American Courts.
So there’s no evidence when it comes to the actual facts. So we have to be guided by facts, not by rumors. Now, let’s get back to the issue of the 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia. I don’t know the full extent of the situation, but President Trump mentioned this issue and I will look into it.
So far I can say the following off the top of my head, we have an existing agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, and it is a treaty that dates back to 1999.
The mutual assistance on criminal cases. This treaty is in full effect. It works quite efficiently. On average, we initiate about 100, 150 criminal cases upon request from foreign states. For instance, the last year, there was one extradition case upon request sent by the United States. So this treaty has specific legal procedures. We can offer that the appropriate commission, headed by Special Attorney Mueller, he can use this treaty as solid foundation and send a formal, official request to us so that we would interrogate, hold questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes, and our law enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States. Moreover, we can meet you halfway, we can make another step, we can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller. We can let them into the country and they will be present for this questioning. But in this case there is another condition, this kind of effort should be a mutual one. Then we would expect that the
Americans would reciprocate and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence service of the United States whom we believe are -- who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia, and we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.
For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor the United States, and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They send huge amount of money, 400 million as contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s their personal case. It might have been legal -- the contribution itself. But the way the money was earned was illegal. So we have solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions, so we have an interest of questioning them. That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound. And they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: Did you direct any of your officials to do that?
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: Mr. President, would you please go into the details of possibly any specific arrangements for the U.S. to work together with Russia in Syria, if any of these kind of arrangements were made today or discussed. Since we brought up the issue of football several times I use the football language. Mr. Pompeo mentioned when we talk about the Syrian cooperation, the ball is in the Syrian court. Is it true and how would you use this fact of having the ball.
TRUMP: I guess I’ll answer the first part of the question. We’ve worked with Israel long and hard, for many years, many decades. I think never has anyone, any one country been closer than we are. President Putin also is helping Israel, and we both spoke with Bibi, Netanyahu, and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel.
In that respect, we absolutely would like to work to help Israel, and Israel will be working with us so both countries would work jointly. And I think that when you look at all of the progress that’s been made in certain sections, with eradication of ISIS, we’re about 98%, 99% there, other things that have taken place that we have done, and frankly Russia helped us with in certain respects, but I think working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.
One little thing I might add to that is the helping of people. Helping of people because you have such horrible, if you see, I’ve seen reports and I’ve seen pictures, seen just about everything, and if we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and on a humanitarian basis, and that’s what the word was, really, humanitarian basis, I think both of us would be very interested in doing that, and we are. We will do that.
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: Excuse me, but for now, no specific agreements for instance between the militaries?
TRUMP: Our militaries do get along. In fact, our militaries have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years. But our militaries do get along very well and do coordinate in Syria and other places. Okay? Thank you.
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: Yes, we did mention this. We mentioned the humanitarian track of this issue. Yesterday, I discussed this with French President Mr. Macron, and we reached an agreement that together with European countries, including France, we will step up this effort, provide military cargo aircraft to deliver humanitarian cargo.
Today I brought up this issue with President Trump. I think there is plenty of things to look into. The crucial thing here is that huge amount of refugees are in Turkey, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in the states that border, adjacent to Syria. If we help them, the migratory pressure on European states will be decreased many fold.
I believe it is crucial from any point of view, from humanitarian point of view, from point of view of helping people, helping the refugees, and in general I agree, I concur with President Trump. Our military cooperate quite successfully together. They do get along and I hope they will be able to do so in future. We will keep working ... Russia, Turkey, Iran, which I informed President Trump about, but we do stand ready to link these efforts to so-called small group of states so that the process would be a broader one, a multidimensional one, and so we will be able to maximize our fighting chance to get the ultimate success on the issue of Syria.
And speaking about having the ball in our court in Syria, President Trump has just mentioned that we have successfully concluded the world football cup. Speaking of the football actually, Mr. President, I will give this ball to you. Now the ball is in your court. All the more the United States will host the world cup in 2026.
TRUMP: That’s right. Thank you very much. We do host it. And we hope we do as good a job. That’s very nice — that will go to my son Baron. Melania, here you go.
JONATHAN LEMIRE, AP: Thank you. Question for each president. President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency concluded Russia did.
My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?
My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?
TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why didn’t they take the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve been wondering that, I’ve been asking that for months and months and been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying.
With that being said, all I can do is ask the question, my people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.
But I have — I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They are missing. Where are they, what happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails — 33,000 emails gone, just gone.
I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails. I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
What he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Okay, thank you.
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: I would like to add something to this. After all, I was an intelligence officer myself and I do know how those dossiers are made up. That’s the first thing. Now the second thing, I believe Russia is a democratic state and I hope you’re not denying this right to your own country.
You’re not denying United States is a Democracy? Do you believe United States is a democracy? And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of dispute can only be levered by trial, by the court. Not by the executive, by the law enforcement.
For instance, the Concord Company that was brought up, it’s being accused, it’s being accused of interference, but this company does not constitute the Russian state, does not represent Russian state. And I brought several examples before.
Well, you have a lot of individuals in the United States, take George Soros, for example with multibillion capitals but doesn’t make his posture, the posture of the United States. No, it does not.
It’s the same case. There is the issue of trying the case in the court, and the final say is for the court to deliver.
We’re now talking about private individuals and not about particular states and as far as the most recent allegation is concerned about Russian intelligence officers, we do have an intra-governmental treaty.
Please do send us the request.
We’ll analyze it properly and we’ll send a formal response. And as I said, we can extend this cooperation but we should do it on a reciprocal basis. Because we want our Russian counterparts to provide us access to persons of interest for us who believe can have something to do with intelligence.
Let’s discuss the specific issues and not use the Russia and U.S. relationship as a loose change, the loose change for this internal political struggle.
QUESTION FROM THE PRESS POOL: A question for President Putin, thank you. Two questions for you, sir. Can you tell me what President Trump may have indicated to you about officially recognizing Crimea as part of Russia and then secondly, sir, does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?
PUTIN TRANSLATOR: President Trump and — well, President Trump’s position on Crimea is well-known — and he stands firmly by it. He continues to maintain that it was illegal to exit.
Our view was different. We held a referendum in strict compliance with the U.N. statute. Now, the compromising material. Yeah, I did hear these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he visited Moscow. Let me tell you this: When President Trump was in Moscow back then, I didn’t even know he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect, but back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, no one informed me he was in Moscow.
But let’s take St. Petersburg economic forum, for instance. There were over 500 American businessmen. High ranking ones. I don’t remember the last names of each and every one of them. Do you think that we tried to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them? Well, it’s difficult to imagine a lot of nonsense of a bigger scale than this. Well, please, just disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.
TRUMP: It would have been out long ago and if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify in the last couple of days — and I was in Brussels watching it — it was a disgrace to the FBI, it was a disgrace to our country and you would say that was a total witch hunt.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.