Putin’s Comments in Helsinki Only Raised More Questions About Russia’s Election Interference

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a soccer ball to U.S. President Donald Trump, left, during a press conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo

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President Donald Trump’s remarks at a joint news conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday were an immediate disaster, as he drew bipartisan condemnation for siding with the Russian leader over his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies about the Russian attack on the 2016 election. But Putin’s remarks were also bad news for Trump. Here are three things the Russian president said that contradicted or cast doubt on Trump’s claims about his dealings with Russia:

It’s unlikely Peskov would have such a conversation with Trump—who the previous year had talked about running for president—without Putin’s knowledge. So why would Putin deny knowing Trump was in Moscow? As for the “compromising material,” Putin said, “It’s difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this.” His hard-to-believe remark about Trump’s trip certainly did not bolster his denial regarding the alleged kompromat. 

At Monday’s press conference, Putin was asked, “Did you want President Trump to win the election, and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” Putin replied, “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.” Putin seems to have made it clear that he favored Trump. His statement could even be interpreted as acknowledging intervention in the election, though that seems highly unlikely. (It’s possible Putin misheard the question—which came after he talked about potentially cooperating with the United States on law enforcement matters—meaning his answer might have been related to that issue.) In any event, his reply could be read as undercutting Trump’s claim he was not Putin’s favored candidate.