Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that allegations of Russian meddling in the US presidential election are “fiction” invented by the Democrats in order to explain Hillary Clinton’s loss.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Putin reaffirmed his strong denial of Russian involvement in the hacking of Democratic emails. The interview was recorded during Putin’s Monday trip to Paris and released Tuesday.
He said the claims of Russian meddling are driven by the “desire of those who lost the US elections to improve their standing by accusing Russia of interfering.”
Putin added that the “people who lost the vote hate to acknowledge that they indeed lost because the person who won was closer to the people and had a better understanding of what people wanted.”
Trump on Tuesday suggested that Russian officials were “laughing” over continued coverage of Russian election meddling.
“Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News,” Trump tweeted.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has also said Democrats were blaming Russia and Putin to justify Hillary Clinton’s election loss during a Republican fundraiser in April.
“The Democrats don’t want an investigation on Russia. They want an independent commission,” Nunes told attendees at a private Republican fundraiser on April 7, which an attendee captured on video and provided to the Los Angeles Times. “Why do they want an independent commission? Because they want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends, and that’s the reason that he won, because Hillary Clinton would have never lost on her own; it had to be someone else’s fault.”
Nunes’ April comments emerged Tuesday.
The California Republican initially spearheaded the House intelligence committee’s Russia probe, but stepped aside after a string of controversial actions that raised questions about his independence leading the investigation.
Nunes drew intense scrutiny after it emerged that he met with a secret source on the White House grounds the day before he briefed the president on information that showed Trump and his advisers may have had their communications “incidentally collected” by the intelligence community during the transition period.
Following an announcement from the House Ethics Committee that it was investigating whether Nunes had disclosed classified information without authorization, he stepped aside from the House’s Russia investigation on April 6.
Putin’s comments came following a series of explosive reports, the most recent of which cited US intelligence officials saying that Russian officials discussed having “derogatory” information about Trump and his associates.
Russian officials reportedly believed “they had the ability to influence the administration through derogatory information,” CNN reported.
That development came days after a bombshell Washington Post report alleging that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner proposed setting up a secret back channel of communication between Trump and Moscow using Russian facilities. The reported request came during a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was also present at the meeting, according to the Post.
Kushner is one of a number of Trump associates, including Flynn, who have becoming people of interest in the FBI’s Russia probe. On Tuesday, the House and Senate intelligence committees asked Trump’s longtime lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen to provide information about his contacts with Russian officials as part of congressional investigations into Russian election interference.
Cohen told ABC News that he “declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad, and not capable of being answered.” He added later to CNN that lawmakers “have yet to produce one single piece of credible evidence that would corroborate the Russia narrative.”
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