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'Read my lips: no!' Putin chooses a peculiar quote and then bungles it

If you're going to deny something, you probably shouldn't be using this quote. And misattribution would just draw even closer scrutiny.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked directly whether his government tried to influence the 2016 US Presidential election, he had a strange response on Thursday.

"Ronald Reagan once, when discussing taxes, addressed Americans with 'Read my lips: no,'" Putin said. "Read my lips: no," he repeated, speaking in English for the final word.

The quote actually was said by then-Vice President George H. W. Bush in 1988 during his presidential campaign.

But crucially, the reason the quote became so famous was because despite Bush's clear promise to not increase taxes, he did exactly that just two years later.

Bill Clinton used the quote as a clear example of a broken promise and went on to crush Bush in the 1992 presidential election. It has since entered US public consciousness as being synonymous with a lie.

Putin thus borrowed a curious choice of quotation to use in denying his involvement in election meddling.

Fevered discussion

On Thursday, fevered discussion of Russia's involvement in the election was dialed up even further with a hearing by the Senate intelligence committee.

Committee member and Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner said Putin "ordered a deliberate campaign carefully constructed to undermine our election."

When one Senator suggested they follow the money involved in suspicious real estate deals and money laundering to find the Russia link, a Russia expert suggested that they also "follow the dead bodies."

Clint Watts, a Russia expert with the Foreign Policy Research Institute Program, said several Russians tied to the investigation into Kremlin disinformation activities were killed in the past three months - not only in Russia, but in western countries as well.

On January 6, the Director of National Intelligence and the heads of the FBI, CIA, and NSA all announced they were convinced that Putin had masterminded the effort to manipulate the November election. But they held back their evidence.

The FBI announced it is conducting a counterintelligence probe led by director James Comey - who was already under a cloud for his own alleged interference in the election, which hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

And a separate investigation in the House of Representatives has become mired in controversy over accusations that its Republican chairman, Trump ally Devin Nunes, was biased and withheld evidence.

As Republican Senator John McCain said, "I think there are lot of shoes to drop from this centipede."

aw/kl (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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