In Megyn Kelly’s much anticipated interview with Vladimir Putin for her debut episode of NBC’s “Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly”, the Russian President said he never met Donald Trump during his business trips to Russia (including Trump’s 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant), stated that he was unaware of any proposal from Jared Kushner to set up an alleged “secret line” of communications between the Trump administration and the Russian government, and that it’s “nonsense” to say Russia has collected compromising material about Trump among many other topics covered in the 7 minute interview (see below).
“I am not aware of such a proposal,” Putin said referring to Kushner’s alleged proposal. “No such proposal ever reached me.” Putin said many CEOs of major U.S. companies visit Russia and then asked rhetorically, “do you think we’re gathering dirt on all of them right now or something?” Putin asked, before saying: “Have you all lost your mind?”
While previously the NYT and WaPo reported that Kushner discussed the idea of creating a secret channel to discuss the crisis in Syria, with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in December, the line was never established, according to a source cited by Bloomberg. A secret line with Russia – which H.R. McMaster said is a normal thing in diplomatic relations with international counterparties – could have allowed the Trump transition team and Russian officials to communicate outside of the scrutiny of the departing Obama administration. It’s become a centerpiece of the questions swirling around Trump and his campaign and possible ties to Russia.
Putin also said that his nation had no channels of communication with the campaigns of either Trump or Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but that there may have been official contacts, which he called a “standard diplomatic practice.”
Putin also said he’d never met Trump, including during a visit by Trump to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, and called the existence of a secret Russian dossier on Trump “just another piece of nonsense.”
“There was no relationship whatsoever. Yes, he visited Moscow in his day. But, you know, I never met him,” Putin says, according to transcript.
Putin also said that he’s not aware of any meetings between Kislyak and officials from the Trump campaign, and that he doesn’t talk to Russian ambassadors every day. He called the allegations “domestic political squabbles” and a line of attack against Trump.
“Well, this is just another load of nonsense,” Putin said in response to a question about Kislyak meeting Trump campaign officials. “Because if there had been something meaningful, he would have made a report to the minister, and the minister would have made a report to me. There weren’t even any reports” the Russian president said cited by Bloomberg. And despite saying there had been no reports, Putin volunteered that “there was not even a specific discussion of sanctions or something else.” In a discussion moderated by Kelly on Friday, Putin said it was “nuts” to suggest the Trump administration had moved to ease economic sanctions on Russia.
Additionally, as previewed earlier in the day by Reuters, Putin also said that he barely interacted with Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, during a dinner in Moscow in 2015 when the pair were seated together. Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was paid $45,000 to speak at the anniversary gala for the Russia Today television network.
“You and I personally have a much closer relationship than I had with Mr Flynn…. When I came to the event for our for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me there was a gentleman sitting on one side. I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left… afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman, he was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services.’ ….That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn.” As a reminder, the payments Flynn received from RT, and his appearance next to Putin at the dinner, have been raised frequently amid speculation about his relationship with the Kremlin.
Asked whether all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded Russia interfered with the election are lying, Putin said “they have been misled” and said he has not seen “any direct proof of Russia’s interference.”
“What fingerprints or hoot-prints or horn-prints, what are you talking about,” he said. Putin even suggested that former President Barack Obama “started having doubts” when they spoke about it. The pair met on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Peru in November, weeks after Trump’s upset election win.
The Russian president accused the U.S. of “actively interfering in electoral campaigns of other countries” while denying that Russia has any motive to do so. “Even if we wanted to, it wouldn’t make any sense for us to interfere,” Putin said.
Meanwhile, Putin accused the US of doing precisely what Russia has been charged with doing in the US: “Put your finger anywhere on a map of the world, and everywhere you will hear complaints that American officials are interfering in internal electoral processes,” he said, adding that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But, I repeat, we don’t even have to do that. Presidents come and go, and even the parties in power change, but the main political direction does not change.”
Putin claimed that Russia has a preference in an election but only reacts to the “political direction” that the United States seems to be heading in. “It wouldn’t make sense for us to interfere,” he said.
But the most notable highlight of the interview was Putin’s tongue in cheek hint that the Deep State – the same entity that may have been behind the Kennedy assassination according to the Russian president – is now behind the attempt to topple Trump and the ongoing push to sour ties with Russia:
“There is a theory that Kennedy’s assassination was arranged by the United States intelligence services. So if this theory is correct, and that can’t be ruled out, then what could be easier in this day and age than using all the technical means at the disposal of the intelligence services and using those means to organize some attacks, and then pointing the finger at Russia.”
Full interview below.