A New York Times reporter said President Donald Trump called him last year to insist that Russia was falsely accused of election interference.
Times’ reporter David Sanger told CNN Thursday that he was the reporter Trump telephoned from Air Force One while on his way back from Germany after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin face-to-face for the first time.
“‘Vladimir Putin told me,’ (Trump) said, ‘that it couldn’t have been the Russians who hacked into the (Democratic National Committee) because they’re so good at cyber that they wouldn’t have been caught,’” Sanger recalled on “New Day” with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota and John Berman. “And he said he was really impressed by that argument.”
Sanger said he then pointed out on that July 2017 call that the US intelligence community had concluded in January 2017 that Putin had personally ordered the hacks into the DNC in 2016.
According to Sanger, Trump replied, ‘How I could possibly believe it? That came from (former FBI Director James) Comey, that came from (former CIA Director John) Brennan, that came from (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, they’re all political hacks.’”
Sanger added, “So he essentially sided with a Putin explanation that would cast into doubt whether or not the Russians actually did this – something he had been doing during the campaign.”
Most of the conversation with the President was conducted off-the-record, meaning not for publication, but Trump later repeated a few things from their conversation in public, Sanger said.
On July 7, 2017, Trump held a two-hour-long bilateral meeting with Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 in Hamburg, Germany. He also spoke with Putin for “nearly an hour” over dinner that same night – though the White House later disclosed the meeting, and there was only a Russian translator present.
After those meetings, Trump wrote on Twitter that he asked Putin twice about Russia’s role interfering in the 2016 US election and that the Russian leader had “vehemently denied it.”
After one meeting with Putin in Germany, Trump took his interpreter’s notes and told him not to share anything about the discussion with anyone else, according to a former State Department official who was in Hamburg when the meeting took place.
On that same flight that he called Sanger, Trump also “dictated” a misleading statement given to the Times about his son’s controversial 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.