MOSCOW (Reuters) - Donald Trump directly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin during their talks at a weekend summit in Vietnam whether allegations of Russian meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election were true, RIA news agency reported on Sunday.
The U.S. president said on Saturday he believed Putin’s denial of the accusations despite the view of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian interference did take place. Trump later distanced himself from his remarks.
According to RIA, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked how Trump had raised the question about alleged Russian meddling, said: “In fact, Trump asked whether that information could be true, how true it could be, and President Putin, for his part, explained his position, which is that Russia did not interfere in any election and this could not be the case.”
Putin also said he did not understand “the groundless statements on the issue being made in the United States”, Peskov added.
The Russian issue has clouded Trump’s first year in office.
Trump’s initial comments on Saturday drew criticism at home because U.S. intelligence agencies have long since concluded there was Russian meddling through hacking and the release of emails to embarrass Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
On Sunday, Trump was careful to make clear he sided with the intelligence agencies under his own leadership. He has previously called the allegations of election campaign collusion with Moscow a hoax.
Reporting by Polina Devitt; Editing by Gareth Jones