DA NANG, Vietnam (TNS) — President Donald Trump said he is "with our agencies" in the intelligence community regarding the question of whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but again stopped short of definitively laying out his view on the extent of the interference or Russia's role in it.
Trump said Sunday that he thinks it's time for the country to move on from the controversy surrounding Russian election interference — currently the subject of a criminal investigation and several inquiries by Congress — in the interest of building stronger ties to Russia to solve global problems.
He also sought to clarify his view on whether he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials over meddling.
"What I said there is that I believe he believes that and it's very important for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia didn't meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership," Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi.
"I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I've worked with and very strongly," Trump said. "Now, at the same time, I want to be able — because I think it's very important — to get along with Russia, to get along with China, to get along with Vietnam, to get along with lots of countries because we have a lot of things we have to solve."
"I feel that having Russia in a friendly posture, as opposed to always fighting with them, is an asset, not a liability," he said.
Earlier, Trump said on Twitter that only "haters and fools" can't see the benefits of a good relationship with Russia.
"Every time he sees me he says, 'I didn't do that,' and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it," the U.S. president said Saturday after meeting the Russian leader briefly on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang.
Trump called the accusations about Russia "an artificial Democratic hit job" that makes it harder to resolve diplomatic issues.
"When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics — bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!" he wrote on Twitter.
Trump has previously dismissed the conclusions of multiple U.S. intelligence officials that Russia interfered in last year's presidential election in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and ultimately to help him win, saying "political hacks" led some of those agencies. Trump called James Comey, whom he fired as FBI director in May, a "liar" and a "leaker."
Despite Trump's campaign pledge to improve battered relations, ties between the U.S. and Russia have become more tense during his first year in office after the U.S. tightened sanctions in response to alleged Russian election interference. Russia responded with U.S. diplomatic expulsions and the sides have since struggled to make progress on most issues.
Speaking in Da Nang, Putin said he has a "good rapport" with Trump.
"It's important that we find an opportunity, with our teams, to sit down at the level of presidents and talk through our complex relations," Putin said. "Our relations are still in crisis. Russia is ready to turn the page and move on."