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Putin and Trump use same talking points to dismiss Russian election interference

"Maybe being Russian, they're actually working for some kind of American company."

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

On Friday, MSNBC broadcast the latest snippet of the exlusive interview Megyn Kelly did with Vladimir Putin. In it, she asked the Russian strongman if he’s worried controversy surrounding his regime’s efforts to interfere in American politics could pose problems for his reelection bid.

“You’re up for reelection right now — should the Russian people be concerned that you had no idea this was going on in your own country, in your own hometown?” Kelly asked Putin.

Putin — leader of a regime that rigs elections by harassing and excluding opposition candidates and by controlling the media — couldn’t even contain a smirk. He then proceeded to try and cast doubt about whether Russia was involved in the first place.

“Listen, the world is very large, and very diverse, and there is a fairly complicated relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation, and some of our people have their own opinion about this relationship,” Putin began. “You mentioned a number of names, some individuals, and you are telling me they’re Russians — so what? Maybe being Russian, they’re actually working for some kind of American company. Perhaps one of them used to work for one of the candidates. I have no idea, these are not my problems.”

Putin’s dismissal of his regime’s involvement is very similar to what Trump said during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minster Stefan Löfven on Tuesday.

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Asked by a Swedish journalist about what lessons he’s learned from “the Russian influence campaign” of 2016, Trump cast doubt upon the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus conclusion — including comments offered publicly by his hand-picked officials — that the Putin regime was behind hacks and influence operations meant to help him win the presidency.

“Probably there was meddling from other countries, maybe other individuals,” Trump said, echoing the infamous comment he made during one of the presidential debates about how a “guy sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds” may have been responsible for Democratic hacks, not Russia.

Despite his own intelligence officials publicly saying not enough is being done to prevent meddling, Trump went on to say he’s not worried that Russia will again try to interfere in this year’s midterms. Somewhat alarmingly, he predicting that from his party’s standpoint, the elections will be “tremendous surprise to people.”

NBC continues to get played by Putin

The framing of Kelly’s question to Putin about election meddling took him at his word that he wasn’t personally aware of efforts to interfere with the 2016 American presidential election — efforts recently detailed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three companies for well-funded “interference operations targeting the United States.”

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But the US intelligence community’s consensus assessment of Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election indicates there’s no reason to be so charitable.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” the assessment said. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for [President] Trump.”

Kelly’s new interview with Putin isn’t the first time she’s been used by his regime to spread propaganda.

Last spring, her first interview for NBC News consisted of a person-on-the-street segment from Saint Petersburg, Russia, in which she ostensibly chatted to everyday Russians to get their thoughts about the Putin regime’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

The first person Kelly spoke to was a man she simply identified as “Russian broadcaster” Sergey Brilev.

“There is a lot of kindergartenish stuff going on,” Brilev said. “It’s humiliating — self-humiliating for such a great country as the United States of America to think that your election was decided in Moscow.”

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What Kelly didn’t know at the time was that Brilev is actually “a top executive at a state news agency who played a key role in one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propaganda efforts,” according to Media Matters.