BRUSSELS -- President Trump set expectations low for pressing Vladimir Putin on U.S. election meddling, saying he can only tell him ‘don’t do it again.”
“What am I going to do? He may deny it,” Trump said Thursday, looking from the NATO Summit in Brussels to his meeting with the longtime Russian leader next week.
“All I can say is ‘Did you?’ and ‘Don’t do it again.’”
Trump has been criticized for his warm relationship with Putin at the Brussels summit, where he excoriated allies such as Germany about their spending on their military alliance before claiming victory when he secured a pledge for an increase in funds.
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He repeated that after NATO and meetings in a “hotspot” United Kingdom struggling through its plan for Brexit, meeting Putin may be the easiest encounter of his trip across the pond.
“It’s not a question of friend or enemy. He’s not my enemy. And hopefully someday maybe he’ll be a friend,” Trump said of Putin, saying first that he is a “competitor.”
He said that he would raise the issue of election meddling along with Moscow-backed fighters in Ukraine and Syria.
Last year at a G20 summit in Germany Trump reportedly accepted Putin’s claim that he did not meddle in the 2016 election to help him, which is the assessment of the joint American intelligence community.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed last year to look into the alleged interference, as well as potential collusion with Americans.
Mueller has indicted dozens including those involved in an alleged Russian “troll farm” and has also already received guilty pleas from Trump campaign figures such as Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos.