Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday rejected allegations that his country influenced last year’s U.S. presidential election, saying such an act “wouldn’t make sense” and that he hadn’t seen “any direct proof of Russian interference” that would have aided the election of Donald Trump.
In an interview with Megyn Kelly on NBC’s “Sunday Night,” Putin fired back at assertions that Russia had meddled in the election, at times getting noticeably agitated with the line of questioning. At one point, he told Kelly that Russia didn’t care who the American president was as the “main political direction does not change.”
“Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change,” he said. “That’s why, in the grand scheme of things, we don’t care who’s the head of the United States, we know more or less what’s going to happen. And so, in this regard, even if we wanted to, it wouldn’t make sense for us to interfere.”
Putin repeatedly rejected claims that Russian hackers had acted to help Trump win the election ― an assertion that has been substantiated by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies. Officials at those organizations have said Putin personally “ordered an influence campaign” in an intelligence report ordered by former President Barack Obama.
“I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election in the United States,” Putin told Kelly.
One of the most vehement denials during the interview, however, came when Kelly asked about a slew of meetings between members of the Trump campaign and Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, was forced to resign after he mischaracterized a meeting he had had with Kislyak. In recent months, several other administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and adviser Jared Kushner, have also come under increased scrutiny over their dealings with Kislyak.
Putin denied that he had any knowledge of such encounters, first telling Kelly that there “were no meetings” and then clarifying that he had not been informed because there was “nothing to even talk about.”
“I’m being completely honest with you,” Putin said. “I don’t know. The routine job of an ambassador ― do you think that from all over the world, or from the United States, the ambassador reports to me every day who he meets with or what they discuss there? That’s complete nonsense.”
“There wasn’t any kind of discussion about sanctions or anything else,” he said. “You created a sensation out of nothing.”
The Russian president also declined to address reports that he was in possession of a secret dossier of compromising material on Trump, and said there was no “special relationship” between the two men.
“There was a time when he used to come to Moscow,” he said. “But you know, I never met with him. We have a lot of Americans who visit us.”