During an interview that aired on this week’s edition of Extra, Donald Trump said he has no relationship with Vladimir Putin. But when Extra’s AJ Calloway pressed Trump about whether that means he’s recanting previous statements that he does indeed have a relationship with the Russian President, Trump said he’s “not recanting anything.”
So if you take him at his word, Trump both does and does not have a relationship with Putin. This brief clip from the interview highlights the contradiction:
Trump’s relationship with Russia came under renewed scrutiny this week following separate reports that there has been “an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit” and that the FBI is investigating connections between Trump campaign staff and Russian oligarchs.
Trump has consistently played dumb about Russia. Despite reportedly being briefed by intelligence officials about Russia’s involvement in hacks on Democratic targets, Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about whether Russians are really involved. Yet he’s signaled support for policy positions that would benefit Russia — such as reevaluating and possibly lessening the United States’ commitment to NATO — and has praised Putin, calling him “a leader, far more than our President has been a leader.”
In September, Yahoo broke news about Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page being under federal investigation for meeting with high-level Russian officials seeking to manipulate the presidential election. That came on the heels of Paul Manafort resigning from his role as Trump’s campaign manager in August amid reports Ukrainian authorities were investigating him for receiving $12.7 million in illegal payments from Ukraine’s former pro-Russia ruling party.
The Extra interview isn’t the first time in recent weeks that Trump has contradicted himself on the topic of his relationship with Putin. During the final presidential debate, Trump claimed he’s “never met” Putin. But he’s previously said, on camera, that he talked with Putin in Moscow in 2014 when he hosted the Miss Universe pageant there.
Trump might be hiding something—earlier this week, Mother Jones reported on the contents of a memo written by a “former Western intelligence officer” that claims “Russian intelligence had ‘compromised’ Trump during his visits to Moscow and could ‘blackmail him.’” Or his incoherency might just be another example of his notoriously fast and loose relationship with the truth. One thing, however, is certain — Trump either lied about not having a relationship with Putin in the past, or he’s lying now.