President Trump brought up the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, both leaders acknowledged during a press conference.
“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.
He also brought up the 12 Russian military intelligence officials whom special counsel Robert Mueller indicted last Friday for hacking Democrat campaign officials and distributing their emails ahead of the election.
Many of Trump’s critics had questioned in advance if he would bring up the subject of interference or the indictments at all, as they tried to paint Trump as weak, unprepared, or guilty of collusion.
Putin denied that the “Russian state” has ever interfered in the election or would do so in the future, but he said he would question the 12 individuals.
“President Trump mentioned this issue, and I can look into it,” he said.
He also said that Mueller may send questions to Russian authorities for those who have been indicted to answer and offered to allow the prosecutors to attend the interviews–but on the condition that Americans would reciprocate and do the same with those in the U.S. whom the Russians believe committed crimes in Russia.
Putin also said Trump brought up the thorny subject of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and stated that he thought it was illegal.
“[The] posture of President Trump on Crimea is well known, and he stands firmly by it. He continued to maintain that it was illegal to annex it,” he said.
“Our viewpoint is different. We held a referendum in strict compliance with the U.N. charter and the international legislation,” he added.