After what special counsel Robert Mueller determined was “sweeping and systematic” Russian interference in the 2016 United States presidential election, Russian President Vladimir Putin told an interviewer from NBC News on Wednesday that he plans to interfere again, in the 2020 election. Putin reportedly framed his claim of upcoming Russian election sabotage as if it were a “joke.”
“I’ll tell you in a secret, yes, we’ll definitely intervene,” Putin told interviewer Keir Simmons, as quoted by MediaIte. “It’s a secret so that everybody can laugh and so we’ll go big. But don’t tell anyone, please.”
While the remark drew laughter from the audience at a forum to discuss energy issues in Moscow, Simmons later told MSNBC that the remark would likely not be seen particularly amusing by U.S. officials, according to the MediaIte account.
In his congressional testimony in July, Mueller told lawmakers that Russia not only intervened in the 2016 election, the Russian operation to influence U.S. elections to suit Russia’s desires never stopped. Russia was continuing to interfere even “as we sit here,” Mueller said, as The Inquisitr reported, adding that he believed that the most overlooked aspect of the report on his two-year investigation was its evidence of ongoing and future Russian election tampering.
Putin jokes Russia will "definitely" intervene in the 2020 US elections pic.twitter.com/wY51XTpboQ
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) October 2, 2019
Later in the Wednesday interview, Putin was asked about his relationship with Donald Trump, the man who — according to both Mueller’s report and a previous U.S. intelligence agency assessment — was Putin’s preferred candidate in 2016 and possibly the beneficiary of the Russian election tampering.
But despite the fact that Trump has frequently praised Putin in public and rarely if ever uttered a word of criticism toward the Russian leader, Putin in the interview appeared to pull back from Trump’s embrace, according to a Bloomberg News report.
“We’ve never been close, and aren’t now,” Putin said, describing his relationship with Trump as “businesslike” and “relatively” trustworthy.
Nonetheless, as Trump faces impeachment over his apparent attempt to strong-arm Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky into intervening in the 2020 election by helping Trump attack Democrat Joe Biden, Putin gave Trump his support, saying that he saw nothing improper in the call between Trump and Zelensky, according to an AFP report.
“I see nothing compromising in the conversation,” Putin said. “President Trump turned to a colleague with a request to investigate possible corruption relating to members of the former administration.”
Putin added that “any head of state” would have conducted himself as Trump did on the phone call with Zelensky. The White House has released only a partial transcript from staff members’ notes of the call, however, so how Putin was able to competently judge whether or not the call contained anything “compromising” remains unclear.