Russian president Vladimir Putin said Saturday that President Trump “asked a lot of questions” about election meddling during their lengthy meeting at the G-20 summit on Friday.
Speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the summit, which is being held in Hamburg, Germany, Putin also praised Trump and said that he believes that the U.S. and Russia are on a path to repair their frayed relationship.
“The Trump you see on TV is very different from Trump the real person,” Putin told reporters. “He’s very specific, he’s able to understand what you tell him, he analyzes your words pretty quickly, and he’s able to respond. He answers your questions or he responds to whatever may come up in the course of discussion.”
Asked about the discussions about whether Russia interfered in last year’s presidential elections, Putin acknowledged that Trump pressed him on the topic.
“The U.S. president did raise the question about this issue, and we did talk about it,” Putin said, adding his customary denial: “there is no reason to believe that Russia meddled in U.S. elections.”
“What he did is he asked a lot of questions about this,” said Putin. “And I responded to all those questions as much as I could, so I think that he did accept what I said, but you have to ask him what he thinks about all of this.”
The nature of the discussion about election meddling has been a topic of intense debate since the conclusion of Friday’s 2 hour, 16 minute meeting. Trump critics expressed concern that the Republican would go easy on Putin.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, who was involved in the talks, said Friday that Trump had accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia did not interfere in the U.S. elections.
Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, who also attended the session, did not say whether Trump accepted Putin’s denials. He said that Trump changed topics after it was clear that Putin was not going to acknowledge that the Russian government was involved in the cyber attacks.
The CIA, FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and National Security Agency have all determined that hackers backed by the Kremlin were involved in email hacks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.
Trump’s position on Russia’s meddling has been more nuanced. While he has said that he believes Russia was involved in election-related cyber attacks against the U.S., he has asserted that it is impossible to know for sure. He has also suggested that other countries could have meddled in the election, a claim that was dismissed earlier this week by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence under President Obama.
Unlike Putin, Trump did not take questions from reporters on Saturday.
Putin also offered a glowing review of Trump and said that he is optimistic that the U.S. and Russia will be able to at least partially restore its frayed relationship.
“I think we were able to establish a relationship,” Putin said.
“I think if we keep going like that, if we keep building our relationship like we did yesterday, there is every reason to believe that we will be able to restore, at least partially, the level of interaction that we need.”