Putin: 'Nonsense' reports meant to 'undermine legitimacy' of Trump presidency
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called reports that Donald Trump has been compromised by Russian intelligence “total nonsense” and said allegations were fabricated to “undermine the legitimacy” of Trump's presidency.
It was the Russian president's first direct denial of the contents of an uncorroborated dossier written by a former British intelligence agent hired to compile opposition research. The dossier claimed Trump was compromised by Russian intelligence agents during a 2013 visit to Moscow to hold the Miss Universe pageant.
“The people who are ordering this kind of false information, who are now disseminating it against the president-elect of the United States, who fabricate it and use it in a political fight, are worse than prostitutes,” Putin said. “They have no moral boundaries.”
In a moment of levity, Putin addressed some of the more salacious rumors in the dossier: “You know, it's difficult for me to imagine that he ran to the hotel to meet with our women of lower social responsibility. Even though they're the best in the world, of course. But I doubt that Trump went after them.”
Putin's remarks were just part of a larger indictment of the American establishment and political opponents of Trump as Russia enthusiastically waves farewell to the Obama administration and awaits a new U.S. administration that may give the Kremlin greater influence in international affairs.
In a nationally televised news conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov railed against the “messianism” and export by the West of “post-Christian values” that embrace “permissiveness,” a nod toward the conservative ethos that has found increasing support in the Kremlin.
Once an exporter of democracy, the West now tries to export values that are anathema to society in Russia, Lavrov complained. Under Trump, the Kremlin is hoping the United States will shift to focus more on national affairs than global values.
Lavrov said he was looking forward to cooperating with the incoming administration in the war on terrorism and bringing peace to Syria, and he took a shot at the Obama administration for what he called “double standards.”
“If we hear that in the foreign policy of Donald Trump the main thing will be the fight against terrorism, then we, of course, can only welcome that, since that is exactly the thing that has been lacking with our American partners,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov criticized U.S. spy agencies for what he described as numerous efforts to recruit Russian diplomats and attempts by U.S. diplomats to disguise themselves to conduct reconnaissance in Russian. Lavrov's spokeswoman on Sunday made headlines in Russia when she said U.S. officials had tried to recruit a Russian diplomat who was arrested while trying to procure medicine for a leading Russian politician.
Like Putin, Lavrov brushed aside the racy dossier.
The document was published in full by BuzzFeed this month after reports that Trump and President Obama were briefed on its contents by the intelligence community.
The dossier's claims are separate, however, from an assessment endorsed by all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian intelligence used electronic hacking to try to swing the presidential election in favor of Trump.
Other major news organizations, including The Washington Post, have had the document for several months but have been unable to verify crucial allegations made by the author.
During the news conference, Putin said Russia did not even know Trump had political ambitions when he was in Moscow in 2013. “What do you think, our intelligence services are chasing after every American billionaire? Of course not! It's total nonsense,” Putin said.
Despite criticism, Trump has stood by his calls for a reset in relations with Russia, setting him potentially at odds with Cabinet picks who have described Moscow as a global adversary. On Sunday, Trump took aim at outgoing CIA chief John Brennan for saying the president-elect “does not fully understand” the Russian threat. In a tweet, Trump said U.S. policies toward Russia could not be “much worse.”
Referring to Syria, where Russia has been backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad against rebels, including moderate groups supported by the United States, Lavrov said Moscow hoped that Trump's administration “will not apply double standards to use the war on terrorism to achieve goals that don't have anything to do with this goal.”
Asked to comment on reports that the Trump campaign was seeking a summit in Reykjavik, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev held nuclear talks in 1986, Lavrov said the report was untrue and that any arrangements would be made after Trump was inaugurated as president.