For the record, in both Washington and Moscow, a key exchange at last week’s joint news conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin never occurred.
As they stood alongside each other after their summit in Helsinki, Trump and Putin answered questions from U.S. and Russian reporters, with one of the most pointed coming from Reuters reporter Jeff Mason, related to the ongoing controversy whether Putin wanted Trump to win the 2016 U.S. presidential election and interfered to help him claim the White House.
The U.S. reporter asked the Russian leader, “President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”
Putin responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
But the Kremlin has excised the entire exchange from its transcript of the news conference and the White House eliminated the first key portion of Mason’s question, whether Putin wanted Trump to win over his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.
Trump has only reluctantly acknowledged that Russia meddled in the election, while also calling it a “big hoax.” He has adamantly rejected any contention that his campaign colluded with Russia, the subject in the U.S. of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing criminal investigation and whether Trump obstructed justice to thwart the probe.
On Tuesday, Trump contended, without offering any evidence, that Russia is intervening in the upcoming November congressional elections in the U.S., but supporting opposition Democratic lawmakers, not the Republican candidates Trump favors.