President Trump said Monday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has “driven a wedge between us and Russia” following his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Maybe we’ve just knocked down that wedge, but it has driven a wedge and President Putin said that,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an exclusive interview. “One of the early things he said when we started was, ‘It’s really a shame, because we could do so much good’ … And they drove a phony wedge, it’s a phony witch hunt, rigged deal with guys like [FBI agent] Peter Strzok and [former FBI Director] James Comey and [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe … and you can imagine who else. It’s a real shame.”
Monday’s summit took place three days after a grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence operatives on charges related to cyberattacks on Democratic organizations during the 2016 election campaign. At a news conference following the meeting, Putin offered to have Russian prosecutors question the indicted operatives and added that Mueller’s team of investigators could be present for questioning, if U.S. officials would “reciprocate.”
Trump told Hannity he was “fascinated” by Putin’s suggestion, but then appeared to dismiss it, saying that the special counsel’s team “probably won’t want to go.”
“The 13 angry Democrats? You think they’re going to want to go? I don’t think so,” said Trump, using one of his usual phrases to describe Mueller’s investigators.
The president added that the Russian leader was “incensed even talking about” the indictments and pointed out that Putin “said there was absolutely no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.
“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.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Putin said he was “not interested” in the Mueller investigation, calling it part of “the internal political games of the United States.”
Trump told Hannity that he and Putin had “a very long meeting, and it was a good meeting.”
“It was just the two of us and interpreters,” Trump said, “and at the end of this meeting, I think we really came to a lot of good conclusions.”
He continued, “I think we’re doing really well with Russia as of today. I thought we were doing horribly before today … I think we really had a potential problem.”
SOURCE: Samuel Chamberlain