Trump now agrees with US intelligence
President Donald Trump says he's convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin believes it when he says Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.
But Trump says he also believes US intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Russia did meddle.
"I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election," Trump said of Putin at news conference with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang in Hanoi "As to whether I believe it, I'm with our agencies."Ex-NSA contractor 'guilty' in secret theft
The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the election to help the Republican defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday, Trump had said that Putin again vehemently denied the allegations - this time during an economic summit in Vietnam. Trump said he believed "that when he tells me that, he means it."
Trump had also dismissed former US intelligence officials as "political hacks" and accused Democrats of using the issue to try to sabotage relations between the two countries, putting lives at risk.Manafort sues over Russia probe
At the news conference, Trump reiterated his view that it's crucial for the US to get along with Russia, and seemed to suggest that it was time to remove the sanctions Congress has slapped on Russia in retaliation for its election meddling efforts.
As he travelled to Hanoi, the second-to-last stop of his Asia trip, Trump told reporters that Putin "said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did."
"Every time he sees me, he said: 'I didn't do that.' And I believe - I really believe - that when he tells me that, he means it," Trump said.Russia’s Putin visits Syria airbase and orders start of pullout
The president lashed out at the former heads of the nation's intelligence community, and said there were plenty of reasons to be suspicious of their findings. "I mean, give me a break. They're political hacks," Trump said, citing by name James Clapper, John Brennan and James Comey.
In a tweet sent from Hanoi, Trump bashed the "haters and fools" he said are questioning his efforts to improve relations with Russia.
Trump had danced around the question of whether he believed Putin's denials on Saturday, telling reporters that pressing the issue would have accomplished little.Unity on N Korea important: Xi to Trump
"Well, look, I can't stand there and argue with him," Trump said. "I'd rather have him get out of Syria, to be honest with you. I'd rather have him, you know, work with him on the Ukraine than standing and arguing about whether or not - 'cause that whole thing was set up by the Democrats."