On Saturday, President Donald Trump said that “people will die” because of the Department of Justice and Congress’s investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“This artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Hanoi, Vietnam. “It gets in the way. And that’s a shame. Because people will die because of it. And it’s a pure hit job. And it’s artificially induced. And that’s [a] shame.”
Trump may have been referring to “people dying” in Syria and elsewhere in the world due to stressed U.S.-Russian relations thanks to investigations into alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election. On Saturday, Putin and Trump issued a joint statement on Syria full of platitudes. The statement said there is a need to defeat the so-called Islamic State and keep military communication between the two countries open. But it also stressed that there is no military solution to the conflict, which is now entering its seventh year.
“There was no collusion,” Trump reportedly continued while speaking to reporters on Saturday. “Everybody knows there was no collusion. I mean, you speak to these people — I saw [Sen.] Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] the other day, and I respect her. She was on television the other day saying there’s no collusion. The Democrats — the Republicans come out screaming it, but the Democrats come out, and they say, ‘No, there’s no collusion.’ There is no collusion. There’s nothing.”
Feinstein sits on the on the Senate’s intelligence and judiciary committees, both of which are investigating alleged Russian election interference. Earlier this month, she told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she has “not so far” seen evidence that the Trump campaign either received hacked Clinton campaign emails from Russia or asked Russia to publish the emails through intermediaries. She was also clear that the committees’ investigations are ongoing.
“People often don’t give you the straight scoop, in terms of their testimony,” she said. “So we will see how that turns out.”
In addition to blaming Democrats for the investigation, Trump suggested on Saturday that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin did not interfere in last year’s presidential election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he is very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.”
Pressed by reporters on whether Trump believes Putin, Trump replied, “I think he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it.”
“There was no collusion,” Trump continued. “Everybody knows there was no collusion.”
Putin made the comments in informal conversations on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Danang, Vietnam, according to Trump.
There is a broad consensus in the U.S. intelligence community that Russian hackers were behind the thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee last year. Last month, Special Counsel Robert Mueller — who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election — filed charges against two members of Trump’s campaign: campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump business associate Rick Gates. The two were charged with 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States.
George Papadopolous, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts. Papadopolous actively tried to set up a meeting between then-presidential candidate Trump and Putin. Trump himself was at the meeting in March 2016 when he proposed the idea, according to Papadopolous. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Papadopolous also emailed Stephen Miller, then a senior policy advisor to the campaign and still one of Trump’s senior advisors, during the campaign about “an open invitation” from Putin to have Trump visit Russia.
UPDATE: A CIA spokesman told ThinkProgress that “There is no statement from the director today.” However, a statement to several other outlets notes, “The director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 intelligence community assessment entitled: ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.’ The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed.”
This report, led by the CIA, FBI, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, found that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” and that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.”
Additional reporting by Joshua Eaton.