Russian President Vladimir Putin maintained reports of Russia's election meddling "are fictional, illusory, and provocations, lies" during a panel Thursday moderated by CNBC. When asked explicitly if Russia interfered — as U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded it has — Putin dismissed the allegations as falsehoods used for "domestic American politics" that "different political forces" employ to "consolidate their positions."
"'Watch my lips: No,'" said Putin, paraphrasing former President George H.W. Bush to assert his denial. Putin insisted Russia sees the U.S. "as a great power with which we want to establish good partnership relations."
As Putin doubled down on his dissent, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee convened Thursday morning for its first public hearing on Russia's influence on the U.S. presidential election. Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) outlined how Russia "sought to diminish and undermine our trust in the American media by blurring our faith in what is true and what is not" by inserting trolls and botnets to push out false information intended to influence the election outcome.
"This is not innuendo, or false allegations. This is not fake news. This is actually what happened to us," said Warner, outright declaring that Putin "ordered a deliberate campaign, carefully constructed to undermine our election."
At the hearing Thursday, the Senate seeks to "determine if there is an actual fire." "But so far, there is a great, great deal of smoke," Warner said, referring to evidence of Russian meddling.