Trump Spoke With Putin About Mueller Report, Sanders Says
(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a more than hour-long phone conversation on Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Sanders told reporters at the White House that the two leaders “very, very briefly” discussed Mueller’s report, which detailed a Kremlin-directed scheme to interfere in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. Mueller didn’t find evidence that Trump or any of his associates conspired with the Russian effort.
The two leaders noted that Mueller’s investigation was now over and he had found no “collusion” between Americans and the Russians, Sanders said -- “which I’m pretty sure both leaders were well aware of well before the conversation took place,” she added.
Trump said later in a pair of tweets that he had “a long and very good conversation” with Putin. “We discussed Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control and even the ‘Russian Hoax,”’ he said.
Mueller’s report was released by the Justice Department last month with redactions. The special counsel reported that his investigation “established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome” and Trump’s campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
But Mueller’s probe “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” according to the report.
The call also included an extensive discussion of the situation in Venezuela, Sanders said. U.S. officials have accused Russia of bolstering the regime of the country’s autocratic leader, Nicolas Maduro, whom the Trump administration is attempting to oust.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week said that Russian officials talked Maduro out of fleeing the country, a claim the Kremlin has denied.
Sanders said the president “is continuing to push more aid to be delivered” to the Venezuelan people, and reiterated the White House’s call for a peaceful transition of power to opposition leader Juan Guaido. She also said the administration was “looking at a number of different fronts” when asked about planning for a possible military intervention there.
Fox News reported that Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan discussed Venezuela military options at the Pentagon on Friday.
“The president’s going to do what’s required and necessary,” Sanders said.
Trump and Putin also discussed North Korea and Pyongyang’s talks with the U.S. over giving up its nuclear weapons. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently traveled to Russia for talks with Putin. Trump conveyed to Putin “the need and importance of Russia stepping up and continuing to help and put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize,” Sanders said.
Putin and Trump also discussed the possibility of renewing the nuclear arms treaty known as New START, which is set to expire in two years. That treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads each country can deploy, has been a central point of negotiations in meetings between Russian and U.S. officials in recent months.
That conversation also included a discussion of “the possibility of having conversations with China” about joining a new nuclear arms treaty, Sanders said.
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