In a bombshell interview with NBC News‘ Megyn Kelly published early Saturday morning Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the 13 Russians and 3 entities indicted by the special counsel for interfering in U.S. elections do not represent the Russian government.
“So what if they’re Russians?” Putin said of the people and entities indicted by Mueller. “There are 146 million Russians. So what? … I don’t care. I couldn’t care less. … They do not represent the interests of the Russian state.”
Kelly also asked Putin if he was concerned about Russian citizens being accused of attacks on the United States elections system. Putin’s reply was that he had not seen “any evidence” that the alleged elections interference had been in violation of any Russian law
“We in Russia cannot prosecute anyone as long as they have not violated Russian law,” he said. “At least send us a piece of paper. … Give us a document. Give us an official request. And we’ll take a look at it.”.
Putin’s denials contradict U.S. intelligence agencies and analysts who have repeatedly said that Putin and Russia have been interfering and disrupting American elections for a long time. But Putin scoffed at the idea that Russia could influence how Americans vote.
“Could anyone really believe that Russia, thousands of miles away … influenced the outcome of the election? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous even to you?” he said. “It’s not our goal to interfere. We do not see what goal we would accomplish by interfering. There’s no goal.”
John Brennan, a former CIA director, said that Putin and the Russian government had (and still have) a very clear goal: “To weaken the United States government.” According to Brennan, if American democracy is weakened, and we are facing internal strife and conflict, then “the U.S. government is not going to be able to deal with international issues and confronting Russian aggression as assertively as it needs to.”
With respect to President Trump, he has implied that he believes Putin’s denials, and does not believe his own intelligence agencies such as the CIA, the FBI and the NSA.
“Putin said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump told reporters on his way to Hanoi after a meeting with Putin in November.
The fact that Trump believes Putin instead of American intelligence agencies speaks volumes about where the president’s loyalties lie. It also highlights the problems the country faces in trying to stop ongoing Russian election interference without the support of the president. After all, if Russia helped Trump get elected, why would he want to change anything? If it is shown that Russia interferes in the 2018 elections and helps Republicans stay in control of Congress there will be a major constitutional crisis and the divisions in the country will grow deeper.