Updated Mar 10, 2018 2:43 PM EST
Russian President Vladimir Putin says he “couldn’t care less” if individuals in Russia interfered in the U.S. elections, saying whoever it was — if it happened — doesn’t represent the interest of the “Russian state.” Putin made the comments in a Moscow interview with NBC News’ Megyn Kelly, the latest segment of which was released Saturday.
Putin has repeatedly denied Russian election meddling in the 2016 election, which is the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, along with any connections to Trump associates. Last month, Mueller’s probe led to the indictment of 13 Russian nationals, with copious details about their alleged plot to influence the election primarily through fake social media accounts. The indictment alleges that starting in 2014, the Kremlin-backed Russian Internet Research Agency tried to disrupt the U.S. political process and sow discord through stealing U.S. identities and falsely claiming to be U.S. activists.
Pressed by Kelly, Putin finally acknowledged that even if Russian individuals interfered, he doesn’t care, because they may not have Russian heritage, and according to him, did not represent the interests of the government.
“OK fine, Russians,” Putin said. “But they’re not government officials. So what if they’re Russians? There are 146 million Russians, so what?”
Putin, in a previously aired clip of his interview with Kelly, said he will “never” extradite the 13 Russians who Mueller charged in his probe. “If the 13 Russian individuals and companies did interfere in U.S. elections, does that matter?” Kelly asked.
“I don’t care,” Putin responded. “I couldn’t care less. Because they don’t represent – they do not represent the government. I could not care less. They do not represent the interests of the Russian state. Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.”
Putin also cast doubt on the chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Asked if he believes the chemical weapons attacks — which have reportedly killed many, including children — are fake news, Putin said, “Of course.” The U.S. believes Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the attacks, attacks Putin claimed are impossible because according to him, Russia rid Syria of all its chemical weapons long ago.
Mr. Trump has said he blames Obama for failing to address Russian meddling attempts when he was in office. The president has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” although aides have clarified he means the probe of any collusion has no merit. Mr. Trump has said he never said Russia did not meddle.
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