Under pressure to stand firm against Russian election meddling, President Donald Trump insisted he has “very, very good relationship” with President Vladimir Putin on Friday before telling Putin with a smile: “Don’t meddle in the election, please.”
Trump’s meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Summit in Japan was their first since an infamous summit last year in Helsinki, which left lawmakers of both parties aghast at the president’s coziness with Putin and willingness to side with him against the U.S. intelligence community.
As the 2020 election approaches, Trump has been under increasing pressure publicly put Putin on notice that the U.S. won’t tolerate election interference again.
When asked whether he would tell Putin not to interfere in the vote next year. “The answer to the question is, of course I will. ‘Don’t meddle in the election, please,'” Trump said. As Putin smiled broadly, Trump briefly raised his finger toward Putin before turning away and repeating: “Don’t meddle in the election.”
Trump’s casual comments to Putin are unlikely to satisfy his critics, who have lambasted the president for repeatedly casting doubt on whether Russia interfered in 2016 despite the firm assessments of both the U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which Trump continues to dismiss as a “witch hunt.”