[WATCH] Trump and Putin deny election meddling on TV interviews

The American President was under fire for denying any Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections 

Trump and Putin during a joint appearance in Helsinki
Trump and Putin during a joint appearance in Helsinki

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump both denied Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election during a television interview.

Trump’s appearance took place during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. Both Trump and Putin contradicted US intelligence agencies, saying Russia had no reason to meddle.

Trump, claimed without evidence that Putin had essentially absolved his campaign of collusion with Moscow.

The two leaders spoke separately to Fox News following a summit that prompted some in the US to declare one of the darkest days in the history of the American presidency.

Both presidents continued to deflect from the US intelligence community’s widespread assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the aim of boosting Trump and damaging Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

“Do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?” Putin asked.

Speaking with Hannity, Trump seized on Putin’s denial of Russian meddling as evidence his campaign was in the clear.

“First of all, he said there was no collusion whatsoever,” said Trump, before lavishing praise on his Russian counterpart.

“I thought that President Putin was very, very strong.”

Trump also blamed poor relations with Russia on past US administrations rather than Russian actions.

“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Trump’s appearance drew an avalanche of backlash from both parties in Washington and prompted Democratic leaders to openly question if Putin “holds damaging information” over the US president.

Asked directly by Wallace if Russia had “kompromat” – or “compromising material” – on Trump, Putin denounced the allegations as “utter nonsense”.

“We don’t have anything on them, and there can’t be anything on them,” he said.

“I don’t want to insult President Trump when I say this – and I may come [across] as rude – but before he announced that he will run for presidency, he was of no interest for us.”

“He was a rich person, but, well, there’s plenty of rich persons in the United States,” Putin added. “But no, it would never occur to anyone that he would think of running for president. He never mentioned his political ambitions.”

There has been a barrage of criticism in the US after President Donald Trump defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 elections.

The top Republican in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Trump must see that "Russia is not our ally".

Ryan said: "There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Sen McCain, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it was a "disgraceful performance" by a US president.

"No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant," McCain said in a statement.

Another senior Republican, Sen Lindsey Graham, also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, tweeted that it was a "missed opportunity... to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling".

Meanwhile, Vice-President Mike Pence, in a speech at the US Department of Commerce, defended the summit and praised President Trump.

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