President Donald Trump Said Vladimir Putin Again Denied Interfering In The 2016 U.S. Election : The Two-Way While Trump says he believes the sincerity of the Russian president's denials made during a summit in Vietnam, Trump agrees with U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia did interfere in the election.
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Trump: Putin Again Denied Interfering In Election And 'I Really Believe' He Means It

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Trump: Putin Again Denied Interfering In Election And 'I Really Believe' He Means It

Trump: Putin Again Denied Interfering In Election And 'I Really Believe' He Means It

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the hour today in Vietnam, where President Trump is spending the day at a summit with Asia-Pacific leaders, and he's preparing for a meeting with the Vietnamese president. During his visit, Trump signed a proclamation honoring Vietnam veterans, but what's getting a lot of attention is the president's interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president, and he's with us now from Hanoi. Scott, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So there was some expectation that Putin and Trump would meet privately - did they?

HORSLEY: They did not have a formal bilateral sit down, but they did have two or three short conversations during the course of the APEC summit, which both men were attending. Trump told reporters that their talks focused mostly on Syria. The two leaders issued a joint statement in which they reiterated their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria and their commitment to a political solution to that country's long-running civil war.

MARTIN: Well, you know, obviously there's some sensitivity around this meeting between the two men given Russia's interference in last year's presidential election, which has been pretty well established by U.S. intelligence agencies. Did President Trump raise this?

HORSLEY: Trump told reporters that he, once again, asked Putin about that Russian interference. He says Putin, once again, denied any role. As you say, the U.S. intelligence community concluded, however, that Russia did interfere and moreover that it did so for the benefit of Donald Trump. In fact, earlier today, Michael Hayden, the former director of National Intelligence, tweeted that those findings have not changed. He said the director of the CIA stands by that assessment. Now, this continues to be a sore spot for President Trump though. He told reporters that the cloud of the Russia investigation is impeding U.S.-Russian relations, and it's making it harder for him to do things like seek Russia's help on issues such as North Korea.

MARTIN: So let's turn now to the actual business of the APEC summit, APEC standing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. I take it a number of countries there decided to cooperate on a trade deal but not the United States. Tell us more about that, if you would.

HORSLEY: Remember, Michel, more than a decade ago, APEC was the birthplace of the trade deal that ultimately became known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Former President Obama was a champion of that deal. His administration spent years trying to broker an agreement among a dozen countries in the hopes of providing - kind of rules of the road for commerce with some of the world's fastest-growing economies.

Now one of President Trump's first acts, when he got into office, was to pull out of the TPP. He says the U.S. is not going to take part in that kind of multinational agreement anymore. He prefers to negotiate one-on-one with other countries. But the other 11 countries that signed onto the TPP, they're not giving up, and their trade ministers were meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit. This morning, they announced an agreement on core principles of a Pacific trade pact that does not include the United States.

MARTIN: And how does China fit into this?

MARTIN: Well, China was never part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but Chinese President Xi Jinping was here at APEC. He and Trump both gave speeches on Friday to a group of CEO's assembled for the summit. And it was a striking contrast, Michel. You had Trump complaining that multinational trade deals had been losers for the United States, insisting that he wasn't going to let America be taken advantage of anymore. And then you had President Xi offering a spirited defense of international trade pacts and arguing that globalization is irreversible.

It was kind of a strange role reversal to have China, where the economy is far from open, making the case for free trade and an American president offering a more protectionist argument. As president though, Trump is sticking to his campaign platform of America first, and that's left a lot of leaders of other countries looking in a different direction.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Michel.

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