Putin rushes to Trump's defense, laments US infighting

MOSCOW (AP) — Vladimir Putin rushed Wednesday to defend U.S. President Donald Trump from criticism over sharing classified information with Moscow, issuing a strongly worded statement that reflected the degree of the Russian leader's frustration with the Washington infighting that has thwarted Kremlin hopes for a detente.

The New York Times alleged in an article published Monday evening that Trump had provided classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as well as Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a closed-door meeting with the two officials last Wednesday at the White House.

"We can see that political schizophrenia is developing in the United States", Putin said after talks with Paolo Gentiloni, Italian prime minister, in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Wednesday.

As reported first by The Washington Post, Trump in a meeting with Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak shared classified information about an Islamic State plot to smuggle a bomb disguised as a laptop aboard a passenger plane.

Several U.S lawmakers dismissed Putin's offer to provide a transcript of Trump's meeting with the Russian diplomats, from which the USA news media was barred and only a Russian photographer permitted to attend.

Michael Flynn was sacked as national security adviser in February after it emerged that he misled the vice-president about meetings with the Russian ambassador during the election campaign.

The paper - citing two people who read notes written by Comey - reported that when Comey met Trump the day after Flynn resigned, the president tried to halt any FBI investigation.

Editor's Remarks: The media has latched onto allegations that President Trump divulged classified information to Russian Federation. "I'll be forced to issue him with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us; not with me, nor with representatives of Russia's intelligence services".

"It's hard to imagine what else these people who generate such nonsense and rubbish can dream up next", said Putin, referring to unnamed USA politicians.

For the Kremlin, Trump's conversation with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was a welcome indication of his willingness to pool efforts with Russian Federation in the fight against the Islamic State.

Putin said he was pleased by the results of Lavrov's meeting with Trump, but demonstrated his irritation with what he described as anti-Russian "political schizophrenia spreading in the U.S".

"The president has never asked Mr Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn", it said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Comey to turn over all memos pertaining to his conversations with President Trump.

In 2016, the bilateral trade turnover amounted to about $20 billion, "although for some objective reasons this figure is significantly lower than in the peak year of 2013", Putin said. "They are shaking up their internal politics while using anti-Russian slogans". "They either do not understand that they are harming their own country, which means they are just shortsighted, or they understand everything, and that means that they are risky and unscrupulous people".

He said: "The President wasn't even aware of where this information came from - he wasn't even briefed on the source or method of this information either".

Adam Schiff, the highest ranked Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said this intervention by Trump, if correct, amounted to "interference or obstruction of the investigation", the BBC reporterd.

  • Zachary Reyes