President-elect Donald Trump told a radio interviewer in October 2015 that he had met Vladimir Putin “one time … a long time ago” and that he “got along with him great” — a statement that conflicts with his later denials during the campaign that he had ever met or spoken with the Russian president.
The newly surfaced audiotape, uncovered by a political opposition-research group, could fuel new questions about the precise nature of Trump’s past relations with the Russian president — a subject about which he has made multiple contradictory comments. It was released just hours after Putin, speaking from Moscow, denounced officials in the Obama administration as “worse than prostitutes” for circulating “nonsense” personal allegations about Trump that were allegedly collected by Russian intelligence.
On the newly uncovered audiotape, released by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, Trump discusses Putin with conservative radio host Michael Savage, telling him “it’s wonderful” that the Russians were “really hitting ISIS hard” in Syria.
“Have you ever met Vladimir Putin?” Savage asks.
“Yes,” Trump answers, emphatically.
“You have?” Savage follows up.
“Yes, a long time ago. We got along great, by the way.”
Savage then asked, “If you win the presidency, do you feel you can do business with Vladimir?”
“Yes, I do. I think I would get along very well. I had the Miss Universe pageant, believe it or not, in Moscow two years ago. I got many of the Russian leaders, the top people in Russia, honestly. … These are people, they are looking to do things.”
Trump’s responses to Savage add to the confusing, flatly contradictory comments the president-elect has made about his past dealings with the Russian president. While in Moscow during the Miss Universe content, Trump gave an interview to MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts — who was co-hosting the event — in which, when asked whether he had a “relationship” with Putin, he replied: “I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today.” He later said in a National Press Club speech in November 2015 that while in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest: “I spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.”
But later, when repeatedly pressed last July 31 by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Trump gave a very different answer about Putin. “I’ve never met him,” Trump said then. “I have no relationship with Putin. I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I never met him. … I mean if he’s in the same room or something. But I don’t think so.”
“You’ve never spoken to him on the phone?” Stephanopoulos followed up.
“I have never spoken to him on the phone, no,” Trump replied. “Well, I don’t know what it means by having a relationship. I mean, he was saying very good things about me, but I don’t have a relationship with him. I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t go hiking with him. I don’t know — and I wouldn’t know him from Adam, except I see his picture and I would know what he looks like.”
During the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump sought to clarify comments he made about Putin during a November 2015 debate on the Fox Business channel. In the debate, when discussing Putin and the Ukraine crisis, Trump said, “I got to know him [Putin] very well because we were both on 60 Minutes. We were stablemates, and we did very well that night.”
In the Stephanopoulos interview, Trump explained what he meant. “We did ’60 Minutes’ together,” Trump said. “By the way, not together-together, meaning he was probably shot in Moscow. … And I was shot in New York.”
Trump’s comments prompted Politifact, the fact-checking website, to give Trump a “full flop” last August for his comments about Putin. The surfacing of the Savage audio seemingly adds to the confusion. Its discovery comes just a few days after the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it will be conducting a full-scale investigation — including the use of subpoenas — into the Russian hacking of the election, including “any intelligence” about “links” between the Russian government and any political campaigns in the United States.
A spokesman for the Trump transition did not respond to a request for comment.
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