Wednesday, April 24, 2019 | ePaper
Putin 'knew from beginning' Mueller probe would find no collusion
AP, Saint Petersburg :
Vladimir Putin on Tuesday again called accusations of meddling "total nonsense"
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he knew from the start that the massive investigation into links between US President Donald Trump's campaign and Moscow would come up empty.
"We have said from the beginning that (special counsel Robert Mueller's) commission would not find anything. Nobody knows better than us, Russia did not meddle in any elections," Putin said.
"It was clear ahead of time," he said at the International Arctic Forum. "I talked about this."
The long-awaited report into election meddling concluded that no members of the campaign conspired with Russia to boost Trump in the 2016 presidential elections.
At the same time the investigation did find that Russia carried out a campaign of disinformation and hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign team, and 25 Russians have been indicted.
Putin on Tuesday again called accusations of meddling "total nonsense for the (US)
A redacted version of the Mueller report could be released to the public by next week, US Attorney General Bill Barr said Tuesday.
Attorney General William Barr wrote in a summary of Mueller's report that the special counsel found no evidence the Trump campaign "conspired or coordinated" with the Russian government to influence the election.
However, Mueller uncovered evidence of a Kremlin operation to interfere with the 2016 vote. He charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with breaking into Democratic Party computers and the email accounts of officials with Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Another indictment detailed Russia's use of phony social media accounts to spread divisive rhetoric and to undermine the U.S. political system.
Putin on Tuesday nevertheless repeated Moscow's across-the-board disavowals of election meddling, with or without participation from the Trump campaign. He also reiterated that the Russian government had no contact with Trump when he visited Moscow as a businessman.
"We have been saying from the start that this notorious commission led by Mr. Mueller won't find anything, because no one knows better than us: Russia has not meddled in any U.S. election," Putin said while attending an Arctic forum in St. Petersburg.
The Russian leader described allegations of collusion between Trump's camp and Russia as "sheer nonsense aimed at a domestic audience and used for domestic political infighting in the United States."
Mueller found numerous people associated with Trump were receptive to Russia's help, but Barr's summary said the special counsel didn't find evidence of a criminal conspiracy in meetings and other contact between Russian and Trump campaign officials.
Putin alleged Trump's political foes now were "searching for new pretexts" to undermine him.
"Those groups which are attacking the legitimately elected president, what are they doing?" Putin said. "They disagree with the choice of the American people and seek to reduce the results to zero."
Putin's rhetoric resembled Trump's statements disparaging Democrats. Asked if he agreed with Trump's description of the probe as a "witch hunt," Putin said "President Trump knows better."
At the same time, he insisted he wasn't vouching for the U.S. president with his comments on Mueller's investigation.
"I'm not defending President Trump. We have plenty of disagreements," Putin said. "His administration has introduced numerous sanctions against Russia, something we disagree with and will never accept."
The Russian leader added that despite differences, Moscow and Washington have found some common ground on the conflict in Syria. Putin said he hoped the United States and Russia could focus on more areas of mutual interest, such as nuclear arms control, fighting terrorism and climate change.