Putin rejects US claims about Trump dossier
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the idea that Russia has any damaging material on US President Donald Trump was "just another load of nonsense."
In an interview broadcast on US television network NBC's "Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly," Putin said he and Trump "didn't have any relationship at all," and never met during the real estate mogul's business trips to Russia. Interviewer Kelly is a former Fox News anchor and attorney.
"We have a lot of Americans who visit us," Putin said. "Do you think we're gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something? Are you all - have you all lost your senses over there?"
Reports of a Russian dossier of damaging personal information, as well as allegations of collusion between Trump's inner circle and Moscow, have dogged the first few months of Trump's presidency. The administration's potential links with Russia are being investigated by a US special counsel and congressional committees. Trump has called the probe a "witch hunt" designed to undermine his victory in last year's presidential election.
US intelligence agencies concluded earlier this year that Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election, mainly via hacking, to try and secure a Trump win over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Putin has repeatedly denied claims of Russian involvement, as well as any knowledge of Russian contacts with the Trump campaign. He dismissed the charges again in his interview with NBC on Sunday.
"They have been misled," Putin said of US intelligence agencies. "And they aren't analyzing the information in its entirety. I haven't seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the (US) presidential election."
The Russia issue will also be the focus of a hearing in Washington on Thursday, when former FBI Director James Comey is due to testify before the Senate's intelligence committee. Comey, who was leading the FBI's probe into Russia's alleged election meddling, was fired by Trump last month.
During Thursday's hearing he's expected to be quizzed on whether Trump pressured him to abandon a probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his Russian contacts. Flynn was fired in February after misrepresenting conversations he'd had before the inauguration with Russian ambassador to Washington Sergei Kislyak.
In the NBC interview, Putin sought to distance himself from Flynn, saying he had only had a brief and passing acquaintance with him. Putin also said he knew nothing about a reported attempt by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner to set up a secret communications channel with Russia.
nm/jm (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)