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Trump raises eyebrows with dual Russia meddling claims

Klimentyev/Kremlin via Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk before a session of the APEC summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Saturday.

The Associated PressHANOI (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday said he believes U.S. intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But Trump also said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is sincere when he said Russia didn’t interfere.

“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said of Putin at a news conference with Vietnam’s president in Hanoi. “As to whether I believe it, I’m with our agencies.”

He added, “As currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”

Top U.S. intelligence officials, including those at the CIA, have concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help the Republican Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. A special counsel and multiple Congressional committees are also investigating potential collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign aides. That probe has so far led to the indictments of Trump’s former campaign chairman and another top aide for financial and other crimes unrelated to the campaign, as well as a guilty plea from a Trump foreign policy adviser.

It’s a question that has followed Trump since January, when he said for the first time at a press conference in Trump Tower shortly before taking office that he accepted Russia was behind the election year hacking of Democrats that roiled the White House race.

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” Trump said then, quickly adding that “other countries and other people” also hack U.S. interests.

But the issue wasn’t settled.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday on his way to Hanoi, Trump had said that Putin again vehemently denied the allegations — this time on the sidelines of an economic conference in the seaside city of Da Nang, Vietnam. Trump danced around questions of whether he believed Putin, but stressed Putin’s denials. He also accused Democrats of using the issue to try to sabotage relations between the two countries, putting lives at risk.

“Every time he sees me, he said: ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe — I really believe — that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said, arguing that it made no sense for him to belabor the issue.Speech

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