Trump Offers New Denials on Russia Contacts, Including: “Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years”

In his 75-minute-long news conference Thursday, President Donald Trump responded to several direct questions about his and his associates’ connections with Russia during the campaign and after the election. The questions were spurred in part by a New York Times story that broke Wednesday reporting that  Trump campaign members and Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election (see also the CNN story referring to “constant” contacts during the campaign). Trump refuted this, saying the entire Russia story was a ruse, a joke, fake news. He offered a series of denials  — some familiar and some brand new.

I’ve previously catalogued instances when the Trump team’s assertions about their connections to Russia contradict what they’ve said in the past and the facts as they’ve been reported by multiple news organizations and the US intelligence community. You can read those here.

The Russia story is made up by Democrats to explain their election loss

“You can talk all you want about Russia, which was fake news, fabricated deal, to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and the press plays right into it.”

The Russia story is also made up by the press

“The failing New York Times wrote a big, long front-page story yesterday. And it was very much discredited, as you know. It was — it’s a joke.”

No one was ever on the phone with Russia …

“I saw a couple of the people that were supposedly involved with all of this — they know nothing about it; they weren’t in Russia; they never made a phone call to Russia; they never received a phone call.”

… Including Trump

“Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn’t. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago. We had a very good talk, especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time.”

The people who talked to Russia played a minor role on the campaign [also, they didn’t speak to Russia]

“The people mentioned in the story, I notice they were on television today saying they never even spoke to Russia. They weren’t even a part, really — I mean, they were such a minor part. I hadn’t spoken to them.”

Without naming him, Trump repeats his claim that he never met his former foreign policy advisor Carter Page

“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him. I didn’t talk to him ever. And he thought it was a joke.”

[In a March interview with the Washington Post, Trump personally listed Page as a member of his initial foreign policy team, which at the time included five people.]

Former chairman of the Trump campaign for several months, Paul Manafort (who has an apartment in Trump Tower) wasn’t involved in the Trump campaign for long

“He was replaced long before the election. You know that, right?

He was replaced long before the election. When all of this stuff started coming out, it came out during the election. But Paul Manafort, who’s a good man also by the way, Paul Manafort was replaced long before the election took place. He was only there for a short period of time.”

[Manafort’s ties to Russia, and particularly his lobbying work on behalf of ousted Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Putin, came under fire this summer, leading to his eventual resignation from the Trump campaign. He was replaced by Breitbart News Executive Steve Bannon.]

Trump owns nothing in Russia

“I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don’t have any deals in Russia.”

[While it might be true that Trump has no current deals in Russia, it’s not for lack of trying. As The New York Times reported, Trump has been unsuccessfully chasing real estate deals in Russia for three decades.]

He did not direct Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, but …

“I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

Trump denies Flynn had contacts with Russian officials before the election

TRUMP: Well I told you, Gen. Flynn obviously was dealing. So that’s one person. But he was dealing, as he should have been.

QUESTION: During the election?

TRUMP: No. Nobody that I know of. Nobody…

He has nothing to do with any of it …

“I had nothing to do with it. I have nothing to do with Russia.”

… Nor do his associates — to the best of his knowledge

“I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge no person that I deal with does.”

Image: Mario Tama/Getty

 

About the Author(s)

Kate Brannen

Editorial Director of Just Security; nonresident senior fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the Atlantic Council; previously senior reporter covering the Pentagon for Foreign Policy Follow her on Twitter (@K8brannen).