Putin insulted by US election meddling claim, Trump says

President Vladimir Putin feels insulted by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Donald Trump has said after meeting him briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

“He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” the US leader said.

Mr Trump, who defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, said the allegations were a “Democratic hit job”.

The US intelligence community concluded earlier that Russia had indeed tried to sway the poll in favour of Mr Trump.

The US justice department has appointed special investigator Robert Mueller to examine any possible collusion involving Mr Trump’s team, and legal action has already been taken against several former aides.

What are the allegations against Russia?

President Trump has refused to acknowledge a reported assessment by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.

The contents of the emails, passed to Wikileaks and posted online, were embarrassing to the Democrats and shook up the presidential campaign, which ended in defeat for Hillary Clinton.

In addition to the Mueller inquiry, congressional committees have been set up to carry out their own investigations.

Relations between the US and Russia have been strained for years, with the Kremlin long accusing Washington of seeking to sway elections in Russia and other ex-Soviet states including Ukraine and Georgia.

While Russian hackers are widely suspected of involvement, there has been no conclusive link to the Kremlin.

Denying that Russia had tried to interfere last year by fostering contacts with Mr Trump’s campaign, Mr Putin told reporters in Vietnam: “Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of a continuing domestic political struggle.”

He said he believed Mr Putin had been “very insulted by” the allegations and that was “not a good thing” for America.

“He [Putin] said he didn’t meddle,” he added. “I asked him again.”

Asked if he believed Mr Putin, he replied, “He is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”

How far has US justice department investigation progressed?

Last month, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to having lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Russia.

He testified that Russian nationals had contacted him in an attempt to gain influence with the Trump campaign, offering “dirt” in the form of “thousands of emails” on Mrs Clinton in April 2016 – two months before the DNC emails were leaked.

Mr Trump has played down the importance of Mr Papadopoulos, calling him a “low-level volunteer” and “liar”.

On Saturday, Mr Putin brushed aside US media reports that a woman wrongly identified by Mr Papadopoulos as the Russian president’s niece had offered to help broker meetings with Kremlin officials.

“I do not know anything about it and I think it is just some fantasies,” Mr Putin said.

Mr Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and an associate were also placed under house arrest on charges of money laundering as a result of the Mueller inquiry, but the charges do not relate to the election.

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This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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