Russia's Putin denies having compromising information on Trump

Reuters

Posted at Jun 05 2017 09:38 AM

WASHINGTON - Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly denied he had any compromising material about US President Donald Trump in a televised interview broadcast on Sunday.

"Well, this is just another load of nonsense," Putin said on NBC News' "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly," when asked whether he had any damaging information on the Republican president.

The remarks were the latest in a series of denials from Moscow that have had little impact so far on a political crisis in the United States over potential links between Russia and Trump's inner circle.

Putin also told NBC he had no relationship with Trump, despite Trump's previous travel to Russia as a businessman. Putin noted that executives from perhaps 100 American companies were currently in Russia.

"Do you think we're gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something?" Putin asked, before saying: "Have you all lost your senses?"

Trump has called an FBI investigation into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia a "witch hunt" designed to undermine the legitimacy of his 2016 election win.

Protesters gather to rally against US President Donald Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey on May 10. Trump's decision sent shockwaves across Washington, a virtually unprecedented move that came as Comey was heading an investigation into Team Trump's links to Russia. Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

US intelligence agencies concluded that Moscow interfered in last year's US presidential election campaign to try to tilt the vote in Trump's favor.

"They have been misled," Putin told NBC. "And they aren't analyzing the information in its entirety. I haven't seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the (U.S.) presidential election."

Putin dinner with Michael Flynn: "I didn't even really talk to him"

Putin also claimed he hardly spoke at all with former U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn when they sat together at a Moscow dinner in 2015, NBC News quoted the Kremlin leader as saying.

Flynn's ties to Moscow are under scrutiny in the United States amid allegations of possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. An oft-published photo of him sitting next to Putin at a gala dinner seems to hint he had close relations.

Flynn has declined to testify to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee about his Russian ties, invoking his constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

Putin, speaking to NBC News' Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, said he recalled the dinner in question as a routine event.

"I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, 'You know there was an American gentleman, he was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services'," Putin said.

"That's it. I didn't even really talk to him. That's the extent of my acquaintance with Mr Flynn," he added.

The December 2015 dinner was in honor of the Russian television network Russia Today (RT), a Russian government-funded global network that U.S. officials consider a state-run propaganda outlet and purveyor of disinformation about the U.S.

French President Emmanuel Macron, standing next to Putin in Paris last week, publicly denounced Russia Today and the state-funded Sputnik news agency as "agents of influence ... and of lying propaganda" that had spread "fake news" against him during his campaign for Paris's top post in May.

A preview of NBC's interview with Putin was released to the media on Sunday. In it, the Kremlin chief was asked about the nature of his relationship with the retired U.S. Army general who is the subject of several investigations at home.

U.S. President Donald Trump fired Flynn in February for failing to disclose the content of his talks with Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

U.S. intelligence agencies reported in January that Putin oversaw a campaign of computer hacking, fake news and propaganda intended to swing the election to the Republican candidate Trump over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Putin has denied conducting such a campaign. Trump has denied any collusion between Russia and his campaign and has questioned the veracity of the U.S. intelligence finding.