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Trump jokes with Putin about election meddling

The president has long rejected intelligence community assessments that Russia interfered in 2016, to his campaign's benefit.

(Photo Credit: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Friday joked with Russian President Vladimir Putin, telling him playfully not to meddle in the upcoming election, as Russia did in 2016.

The comments came just weeks after the U.S. president declared he would willingly collude with a foreign adversary to win in 2020.

Trump has repeatedly said that he believes Putin’s claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, contradicting U.S. intelligence assessments. Special counsel Robert Mueller likewise stated in his final report, made public in April, that Russia interfered extensively in that election, to Trump’s benefit, and that the Trump campaign was willing to accept that help. Despite this, the president has repeatedly claimed there was “no collusion” between the two sides over the last two years.

Earlier this month, in an interview with ABC News, Trump admitted he would gladly accept foreign interference in the next election, if it benefited his campaign. “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it,” he said at the time.

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In his meeting with Putin at the G20 summit this week, Trump brushed off concerns that Russia might once again interfere in the presidential election to help Trump, weeks after inviting it.

When asked whether he’d tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election, Trump smugly responded, “Of course I will.”

He then turned to Putin and said jokingly, “Don’t meddle in the election, please. Don’t meddle in the election.”

He wagged his finger in a scolding manner. Putin responded by grinning.

Putin and Trump also bonded over their mutual hatred of the media on Friday.

“Get rid of them,” Trump said, referring to the press. “Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia, but we do.”

“We also have,” Putin replied. “It’s the same.”

The two men laughed.

Trump’s suggestion to “get rid of” the press appears particularly threatening in the presence of Putin, given how frequently journalists are murdered in Russia. Since 1991, the Union of Journalists of Russia has recognized every December 15 as “Remembrance Day of Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty” because 10 to 20 journalists are killed in Russia each year.

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In an interview with The Financial Times published Friday, Putin said he believes that liberalism is “obsolete,” that the concept of Western democracy has “outlived its purpose,” and that, in the wake of the rise of populism, ideas like multiculturalism are “no longer tenable.”

Echoing Trump’s xenophobia, Putin said that under liberalism, “Migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”

He praised Trump as a “talented person.”