Following a one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki Monday, President Donald Trump again placed the blame on U.S. investigators for damaging ties between Washington and Moscow.
During an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, his first since the summit, Trump said a federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election has “driven a wedge between us and Russia,” referring to the probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a “witch hunt.”
“Maybe we’ve just knocked down that wedge, but it has driven a wedge and President Putin said that,” Trump said, claiming that the meeting with his Russian counterpart made progress toward repairing the relationship.
“I think we’re doing really well with Russia as of today, I think we were doing horribly before today,” Trump said. “I mean horribly, dangerously.”
The Helsinki summit took place just days after the Justice Department charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and state election systems. So far the investigation has brought 191 criminal charges against 32 people and three Russian companies.
At a 46-minute joint press conference with Putin after the summit, Trump said Putin strongly denied the charges and said he didn’t see “any reason” why the Kremlin would have interfered in the American electoral process.
“I think it’s a shame… we’re talking about all of these different things and we get questions on the witch hunt,” Trump said. “And I don’t think the people out in the country buy it, but the reporters like to give it a shot. I thought that President Putin was very, very strong.”