Years after Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election prompted investigations, President Trump asked Vladimir Putin not to do it again in 2020. USA TODAY
OSAKA, Japan — President Donald Trump on Saturday defended his exchange with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he appeared to joke about that country’s meddling in the 2016 election.
Asked if he was kidding with Putin when he leaned over and told the Russian leader not to interfere, Trump said, “I did say it.”
“You’re going to have to take a look at the words,” Trump said, adding that he raised the issue again after reporters left the room.
Trump’s remarks came less than 24 hours after drew criticism in the U.S. for appear to joke with Putin about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. When reporters asked whether the two would discuss that issue, Trump turned to Putin and wagged his finger with a smile.
“Don’t meddle in the election, president,” Trump said as cameras clicked and reporters shouted questions.
When an interpreter translated Trump’s “request,” Putin laughed.
Minutes earlier, the president spoke approvingly of the fact that the Russian president does not have the same problems with the media that he has. Russia has an oppressive relationship with its press, and dozens of journalists have been killed in recent years.
“Fake news,” Trump said during a meeting with Putin at the G-20 summit in Japan as journalists filled into the room to cover the leaders’ remarks. “You don’t have this problem with Russia…You don’t have it.”
Putin responded in English, according to a raw video feed of the exchange.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “We have, too. The same.”
In discussing other world leaders during his news conference Saturday, Trump said he gets along with both autocrats and democrats.
“Some are stronger than others, some are better than others,” Trump said.
“I don’t really care about offending people,” Trump added. “I get along with a lot of people.”
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