In a second segment of his interview with NBC's Megyn Kelly that aired Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested "Ukrainians, Tatars, or Jews, but with Russian citizenship" may be the real culprits who meddled in the 2016 U.S. election.
"Maybe they are not even Russians," he said of the 13 Russian nationals indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his election interference probe. "Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card; maybe the U.S. paid them for this," Putin added. "How can you know that? I do not know, either."
Putin also claimed it is "impossible" for Moscow to involve itself in other countries' affairs as Washington does. "We lack the necessary instruments," said the former KGB agent. "Russia does not have the kind of tools the U.S. has." Watch Putin's full conversation with Kelly in six parts via NBC. Bonnie Kristian
FBI counterintelligence investigators are looking into whether Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia's central bank, illegally funneled funds to the National Rifle Association in order to help candidate Donald Trump win the election, two people familiar with the matter told McClatchy.
Torshin is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and also a lifetime member of the NRA, and during the organization's 2016 gala in Kentucky, he met with Donald Trump Jr. Spanish authorities believe Torshin helped mobsters launder money through Spanish properties and banks, Bloomberg News reported in 2016, and had he not been tipped off by a Russian prosecutor, he would have been arrested while in Spain for a friend's birthday party.
The NRA said it spent a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, with $30 million going to help Trump, triple the amount the NRA used to back Mitt Romney in 2012. Torshin has hosted the NRA's top leaders in Moscow, and in 2016, he tried and failed to broker a meeting between Putin and Trump, The New York Times reported. Neither the NRA nor Torshin responded to McClatchy's requests for comment. Catherine Garcia
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his hopes for better U.S.-Russia relations in his annual letter to the White House, sent by telegram, timed for New Year's Eve. The note to President Trump emphasizes Putin's desire for "pragmatic cooperation" between Moscow and Washington on the basis of "equality and mutual respect." A "constructive Russian-American dialogue is especially needed to strengthen strategic stability in the world," Putin said.
He also wrote to other world leaders, including France's Emmanuel Macron, Syria's Bashar al-Assad, and China's Xi Jinping, describing China and Russia as "two neighborly peoples" and calling for a trusting relationship between Beijing and Moscow.
This time last year, the Obama administration had just imposed new sanctions on Moscow in reaction to election meddling attempts. In response, Putin sent Trump a letter and for Obama issued only a short statement saying he would not retaliate against U.S. diplomats in Russia. "It is a pity that the Obama administration ends his term in such a way," Putin said, "but, nevertheless, I wish him and his family a Happy New Year."
"We only spoke about the most simple things," Kislyak claimed, labeling the talks "completely correct, calm, absolutely transparent." "In any case, there were no secrets on our side," he added. "There are a number of issues which are important for cooperation between Russia and the United States — most of all, terrorism. And that was one of the things we discussed."
Kislyak also met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, before Trump took office. He was removed from his diplomatic post in June. Bonnie Kristian
The new package of sanctions against Russia which the Senate overwhelmingly approved on Wednesday would "complicate the Russian-American relationship," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview Saturday. "I think this is harmful," Putin added, calling the move "premature."
The bipartisan sanctions bill is intended to punish Russian meddling in the 2016 election, military intervention in Syria, and annexation of Crimea in 2014. The measure has been sent to the White House for signature or veto; President Trump has not yet indicated what he intends to do. Bonnie Kristian
American business leaders can help normalize U.S.-Russian relations, Reuters reports Russian President Vladimir Putin said while speaking Friday at in St. Petersburg. "Help us restore normal political dialogue," Putin told his audience. "I ask you on behalf of Russia and I address the American side: Help the new president and the new administration."
Also on Friday, Yahoo News reported that since taking office, President Trump's administration has been working to lift economic sanctions on Russia and return two diplomatic compounds seized by former President Barack Obama in retaliation for Russian state hacking. "There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions," said a former State Department official.
Federal investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump team, including criminal probes into the actions of ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, are ongoing. Bonnie Kristian
Americans disagree about allegations that Russia tampered with the 2016 presidential election on President Trump's behalf, but we can all appreciate the Russian Foreign Ministry's cheeky April Fools' joke.
On Saturday, the agency shared on social media an audio recording in Russian and English of a mock answering machine message billed as a new election meddling service being piloted at Russian consulates and embassies worldwide. "To arrange a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent, press one," the recording says. To "use the services of Russian hackers," press two, or "to request election interference, press three and wait until the next election campaign." Bonnie Kristian
U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly have evidence the Kremlin is considering extraditing NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden from Russia to the United States as a "gift" to "curry favor" with President Trump. Snowden's lawyer says he has "received no such signals and has no new reason for concern," but Snowden himself touted the report Friday evening as proof that he is not on Moscow's payroll:
Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel. No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they're next. https://t.co/YONqZ1gYqm
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 10, 2017