CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed during Thursday night’s presidential debate that opponent President Donald Trump “hasn’t said a word” to Russian President Vladimir Putin about intelligence reports accusing the Kremlin of interfering in American elections.
VERDICT: FALSE. Trump has addressed the matter with Putin personally at least three times, not counting interactions between other representatives of the Trump administration and the Russian government.
During Thursday’s debate, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC asked Biden what he would do to guarantee the security of American elections in the face of foreign intervention, particularly the revelation Wednesday night by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe that the rogue governments of Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration information and, at least in Iran’s case, used that information to send intimidating messages to voters.
“They’re interfering with American sovereignty,” Biden responded, insisting those guilty would pay without elaborating.
“To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think the president has said anything to Putin about it. I don’t think he’s talked with him a lot – I don’t think he’s said a word,” Biden continued. “I don’t know why he hasn’t said a word to Putin about it, and I don’t know what he has recently said, if anything, to the Iranians. My guess is he’d probably be more outspoken with regard to the Iranians.”
Trump has addressed concerns of Russian attempts to tamper with American national elections at least three times, two of those occasions during in-person meetings.
In November 2017, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he had directly asked Putin about Russian mischief in the 2016 presidential election.
“I just asked him again,” Trump said at the time. “He said he as absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did. … Every time he sees me he says I didn’t do that and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”
In July 2018, Trump met with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, and on that occasion also said he addressed Russian election interference with Putin. This time, Putin was at the press conference and confirmed this to be true.
“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,” Trump said.
“President Trump mentioned this issue, and I can look into it,” Putin told reporters, denying that Moscow had engaged in any nefarious behavior.
During the 2019 G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, the two leaders met again, and Trump warned Putin in front of reporters not to interfere in the 2020 election.
“Don’t meddle in the election, President. Don’t meddle in the election,” Trump told Putin. Putin did not answer.