Trump denies Russian ties in long, fiery press conference

17 Feb 2017By Omar Dabbagh


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SBS World News Radio: United States president Donald Trump says he would have ordered his former national security adviser to discuss sanctions with Russia if he thought he needed to.

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In a marathon televised press conference that lasted well over an hour, United States president Donald Trump has engaged in a series of aggressive exchanges with the media.

The exchanges ranged across a number of contentious issues, from the stability of his administration to his attacks on the media and his proposed travel ban for some Muslim countries.

Mr Trump has also angrily denied he has any ties to Russia.

The President claims he owes nothing to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

"And I can tell you, speaking for myself, I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don't have any deals in Russia. President Putin called me up, very nicely, to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then called me up, extremely nicely, to congratulate me on the inauguration, which was terrific. But so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all other countries."

The scrutiny over ties between the new US administration and Russia has intensified following the resignation of Mr Trump's national-security adviser.

General Michael Flynn's admission that he did speak to Russia prior to Mr Trump's inauguration - after saying he did not - was a major blow to the White House.

Rival Democrats are calling for an inquiry into the legality of General Flynn's discussions.

But, now, Mr Trump, in the midst of denying ordering General Flynn to talk with the ambassador about sanctions, has made a stunning admission that he would have if he thought he needed to.

"No, I didn't. No, I didn't. No, I didn't. But Mike ... excuse me, no, I fired him because of what he said to Mike Pence, very simple. Mike was doing his job, he was calling countries and his counterparts. So it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it. I didn't direct him, but I would have directed him because that's his job."

Mr Trump says it is important for the United States to have good relations with Russia, but he refused to respond to claims Mr Putin is testing him.

Vladimir Putin says he believes it is in everyone's interest if communication between the two countries is restored.

"It's in everyone's interest to resume dialogue between the intelligence agencies of the United States and other members of NATO. It is not our fault that it was disrupted and is not developing."

Meanwhile, United States defence secretary James Mattis has accused Russia of trying to interfere in a number of democratic elections.

Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels, James Mattis says he does not see the conditions for military collaboration with Russia.

"The point about Russia is they have to live by international law, just like we expect all mature nations on this planet to do. Russia is going to have to prove itself first and live up to the commitments they have made in the Russia-NATO agreement."

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has denied the allegation of interference at a meeting with his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany.

(Reporter:) "Mr Lavrov, are you concerned about the turmoil in the administration back in Washington's ultimate effect on US-Moscow relations?"

(Lavrov:) "Well, you should know that we do not interfere in domestic matters of other countries."

Following the meeting, Mr Lavrov gave a frank assessment of the state of affairs.

"It is obvious that we could not have resolved all the issues. I think they cannot ever be resolved completely between two major states such as Russia and the United States. But we have common understanding that, where our interests coincide - and they do in multiple areas - we should move forward and show the ability by Russia and the United States to play the role assigned to them thanks to their position on the international arena."

Rex Tillerson says the United States hopes to work with Russia but there are limits to its cooperation.

"The United States will consider working with Russia when we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people. Where we do not see eye to eye, United States will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies. As we search for new common ground, we expect Russia to honour its commitments to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate the violence in Ukraine."



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