President Donald Trump on Saturday accused media coverage of the Russia investigation of overshadowing the “tremendous potential” of his call with Russian President Vladimir Putin – a shift from his own description of a call spent lamenting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation but not warning Putin against continued Russian meddling in the 2020 election.
“Very good call yesterday with President Putin of Russia,” Trump tweeted. “Tremendous potential for a good/great relationship with Russia, despite what you read and see in the Fake News Media. Look how they have misled you on ‘Russia Collusion.’ The World can be a better and safer place. Nice!”
When tweeting about the call’s contents after talking with Putin Friday morning, Trump said that the two “discussed Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control and even the ‘Russian Hoax’” in a “very productive talk.”
“As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he added.
When asked on Friday about the call, Trump said he did not tell the Russian president to halt the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in American elections.
“We didn’t discuss that. Really, we didn’t discuss it. We discussed five or six things. We also went into great detail on various things,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office after the phone call.
In his investigation, Mueller spotlighted Russian interference, indicting 12 Russian military intelligence officers last year and indicating newly discovered ways that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in his final report.
The intelligence community has long warned Trump of Russia’s longstanding interference efforts that show no signs of stopping – and that the President has shown little interest in combating.
In January, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned Congress that Russia and other foreign countries were expected to target the 2020 elections.
“We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 US elections as an opportunity to advance their interests,” Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time. “We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other’s experiences and efforts in previous elections.”
Coats and a slew of other officials – then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Chris Wray, NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo – also all confirmed last year the intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 and would continue targeting future elections.
But the President has seemingly declined to heed his intelligence advisers’ warnings.
A US government official previously told CNN that getting the White House to focus on Russian election interference was “like pulling teeth,” adding that “in general, senior White House staff felt it wasn’t a good idea to bring up issues related to Russia in front of the President.”