Putin interview: Did Russia interfere in the election, collect info on Trump?

Did the Russian government interfere in the U.S. election? Did Russian President Vladimir Putin collect damaging information on President Donald Trump?

Putin provided his perspective in the exclusive inaugural episode of "Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly" after NBC News' Megyn Kelly posed both of those questions to the Russian president.

Kelly met Putin in St. Petersburg, the Russian president's hometown and his nation's onetime capital, after sharing a contentious discussion about Russia's attempts to hack the 2016 election at the St. Petersburg World International Economic Forum. Putin, a former KGB agent, has been painted as the puppet master behind the challenge on November's voting.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin ordered the disruption of the election. During the interview, Putin tried to dismiss the evidence by claiming that the United States has a history of meddling in foreign elections.

"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.

Kelly pushed back at the assertion, saying it sounded like Putin's attempt to justify his government's attempts to influence elections.

Putin demurred.

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
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Related: Vladimir Putin Tells Megyn Kelly: U.S. Hacker Could Have Framed Russia

"Every action has an equal and opposite reaction," he said. "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.

The conversation later turned to a pre-campaign dossier that was purportedly collected on Trump.

Asked whether "you have something damaging on our president?" Putin — who once worked as a KGB recruiter — replied: "Well, this is just another load of nonsense. Where would we get this information from?"

"Why, did we have some special relationship with him?" Putin asked. "We didn't have any relationship at all. There was a time when he used to come to Moscow. But you know, I never met with him. We have a lot of Americans who visit us."

The well-known spin master then attempted to turn the tables.

"Right now, I think we have representatives from a hundred American companies that have come to Russia," Putin said. "Do you think we're gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something? Have you all lost your senses over there?"

Related: Vladimir Putin on Dinner With Michael Flynn: 'I Didn't Even Really Talk to Him'

Kelly concluded by asking Putin about and the Russian Federation's recent history of corruption, repression and silencing of dissidents. He dismissed the allegations and again told the United States to avoid moralizing.

"Why do you feel you have the right to ask us these kinds of questions? And do it all the time? To moralize and to give us lessons on how to live?" he said. "We're ready to listen to comments when it is done constructively, with the goal of establishing a relationship, creating a common environment. But we will absolutely not accept when these sorts of things are used as an instrument of political conflict."

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