Trump reportedly called up a journalist to defend Russia right after a private meeting with Putin in 2017
A new report from The New York Times details how, in 2017, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin twice at the G-20 summit in Germany, Trump "telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference." Although he asked that these comments be off-the-record, the Times' Peter Baker writes that Trump "later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides."
Putin had apparently told Trump that if Russia was behind election hacking, "we wouldn't have gotten caught because we're professionals," which Trump thought was a "good point." Trump also reportedly denigrated his intelligence officials as being "political." Trump has often cast doubt on his own intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, perhaps most infamously at the Helsinki summit with Putin in 2018.
The Times report follows a story from The Washington Post detailing how Trump has concealed records of his conversations with Putin on numerous occasions, even from senior White House officials. Trump's off-the-record phone call to the Times reportedly came after a meeting where he swiped his interpreter's notes and told them not to brief anyone on what was discussed, as well as after a second conversation with Putin that no Americans officials witnessed and wasn't disclosed until more than a week after it took place.