By ILYA ARKHIPOV and JENNIFER JACOBS
DA NANG, Vietnam â President Donald Trump said he is âwith our agenciesâ in the intelligence community regarding the question of whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but again stopped short of definitively laying out his view on the extent of the interference or Russiaâs role in it.
Trump said Sunday he thinks itâs time for the country to move on from the controversy surrounding Russian election interference â currently the subject of a criminal investigation and several inquiries by Congress â in the interest of building stronger ties to Russia to solve global problems.
He also sought to clarify his view on whether he believes Russian President Vladimir Putinâs denials over meddling.
âWhat I said there is that I believe he believes that and itâs very important for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia didnât meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, Iâm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership,â Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi.
âI believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. Iâve worked with and very strongly,â Trump said. âNow, at the same time, I want to be able â because I think itâs very important â to get along with Russia, to get along with China, to get along with Vietnam, to get along with lots of countries because we have a lot of things we have to solve.â
âI feel that having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset, not a liability,â he said.
Earlier, Trump said on Twitter only âhaters and foolsâ canât see the benefits of a good relationship with Russia.
âEvery time he sees me he says, âI didnât do that,â and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,â the president said Saturday after meeting the Russian leader briefly on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang.
Trump called the accusations about Russia âan artificial Democratic hit jobâ that makes it harder to resolve diplomatic issues.
âWhen will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics â bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!â he wrote on Twitter.
Trump has previously dismissed the conclusions of multiple U.S. intelligence officials that Russia interfered in last yearâs presidential election in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and ultimately to help him win, saying âpolitical hacksâ led some of those agencies.
Trump called James Comey, whom he fired as FBI director in May, a âliarâ and a âleaker.â
Despite Trumpâs campaign pledge to improve battered relations, ties between the U.S. and Russia have become more tense during his first year in office after the U.S. tightened sanctions in response to alleged Russian election interference. Russia responded with U.S. diplomatic expulsions and the sides have since struggled to make progress on most issues.
Speaking in Da Nang, Putin said he has a âgood rapportâ with Trump.
âItâs important that we find an opportunity, with our teams, to sit down at the level of presidents and talk through our complex relations,â Putin said. âOur relations are still in crisis. Russia is ready to turn the page and move on.â
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.