President Donald Trump said Saturday he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin “means it” when he denies meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election. He also said Chinese President Xi Jinping is “more powerful” than Mao Zedong, one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.
Trump said he again asked Putin on the sidelines of a summit of powerful Pacific Rim countries if Russia meddled in the election. Putin again denied it — but the president did not tell reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One if he warned Putin to cease such tactics.
“I just asked him again. He said he … absolutely did not meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did,” Trump said. “You have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.”
“And I believe — I really believe — that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said of the Russian leader’s denials. “But he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he’s very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.”
Trump referred to the ongoing Justice Department and congressional Russia investigations as an “artificial barrier” erected by Democrats in an attempt to sabotage his efforts to warm relations with the Kremlin.
“Russia could really help us and the Democrats wanted to have a good relationship with Russia but they couldn’t do it because they didn’t have the talent, they didn’t have the chemistry to do it, they didn’t have what it takes,” the president said. “That would be great for both countries. And it would take a lot of danger out of this world. … Having a great relationship or even a good relationship with the president of Russia — Hillary [Clinton] tried it, she failed, nobody mentions it.”
Trump made clear he would rather talk to Putin about forming better U.S.-Russian relations and working on common problems such as the situation in Syria.
The president told reporters during the unplanned gaggle that he and Putin struck an undefined agreement on Syria. “It’s going to save tremendous numbers of lives and we did it very quickly, we agreed very quickly,” he said.
And in a rather stunning statement, Trump told reporters that Chinese President Xi Jinping is “more powerful” than Mao Zedong. The longtime chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is considered one of the most powerful figures in world history.
Though Xi recently achieved something only Mao had done before him by having his name and political ideas written into the Communist Party’s constitution. Still, Mao’s decades of rule put him on a shortlist of heavily influential historical figures; Xi has yet to reach that kind of status.
“You know, he was, through this process, he’s the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong,” Trump said.
“And some people say more powerful than Mao,” the president said without elaborating.
Meantime, Trump was asked whether Alabama Republican Roy Moore, who is facing allegations of sexual misconduct, should drop out of his Senate race. Trump tried to change the subject, did not call for Moore to step aside, and repeated a statement issued by his spokeswoman about expecting Moore to do the “right thing” if the allegations are true.
“I have not seen very much about him, about it. And you know, I put out a statement yesterday that he’ll do the right thing,” Trump said after stammering about how much television he watches and having been busy with Xi during a state visit to Beijing as the allegations surfaced.