President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Friday and both agreed “there was no collusion” between Moscow and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
Sanders said that the two briefly discussed special counsel Robert Mueller’s report “essentially in the context of that it’s over and there was no collusion.” She added that she was “pretty sure both leaders were very well aware of (the Mueller report’s finding) long before this call took place” because it was “something we’ve said for the better part of two and a half years.”
When asked if they also discussed election meddling by Russia that Mueller detailed in his report, she said that the administration is committed to securing American elections and blasted the Obama administration for not taking action in 2016.
“This administration, unlike the previous one, takes election meddling seriously,” she said.
Trump later confirmed the call in a Friday tweet in which called the accusation of collusion the “Russian Hoax.”
“Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia. As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he tweeted. “We discussed Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control and even the ‘Russian Hoax.’ Very productive talk!”
Since Mueller’s findings were released by Attorney General William Barr in March and the full report was released last month, Trump has continued to claim vindication. Mueller’s report, which lays outRussia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election, notes “that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.” However, Mueller said in the report that he did not find a provable criminal conspiracy.
During Mueller’s probe, he indicted twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian companies for hacking and a disinformation campaign targeting Americans on social media.
Trump previously came under fire from Republicans and Democrats for suggesting that Russia was not the culprit during a Helsinki summit with Putin last year, despite American intelligence agencies concluding that the country interfered in the election. He later walked back his comments.
Sanders also answered a question about whether White House counsel Don McGahn would testify before Congress as Democrats ramp up their oversight investigations into the administration. McGahn was a key witness in one of the 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice by Trump that Mueller outlined in the report.
She also said that they discussed the crisis in Venezuela and the administration’s need for a peaceful transition of power in the country and delivering aid to the country. Trump and Putin also talked about the need for Russia to put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.