NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly asked Vladimir Putin point blank on Friday about the various reports of Russia interfering with the U.S. presidential election in 2016. The Russian president previously denied these claims, and he did so again as Kelly moderated the key session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
Roughly translated in footage shown on NBC News, Putin said, “What fingerprints or hoof prints or horn prints? What are you talking about? IP addresses, they can be invented. No, there are very many specialists that can invent or fix it up. A kid of yours can send it, a girl that is 3 years old can perpetrate such an attack, and they present it like this and pass it off like this. And these specialists can invent anything and then they will blame someone else. These are not proofs. These are trying to shirk responsibility.”
In addition to various media reports that continue to pour out, U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
Kelly also asked Putin about alleged meetings with Trump’s officials over the course of the campaign. “Those people who disagree with me will never believe what I say right now, I had never known anything about it,” he said. “I’d never known about anyone meeting anyone.”
“We never agreed on anything,” he continued. “We simply said that we’ve got to build our relations. Shouldn’t we think about that? Shouldn’t we do that deliberately and not just recklessly so. You see, it’s surprising. This is some sort of hysteria and this hysteria never seems to stop. Maybe someone has a pill that is going to cure this hysteria. Honestly, it’s surprising.”
Kelly mentioned these collusion claims as a topic for her one-on-one interview with Putin, which she announced on Thursday would follow the forum. The full interview with air on June 4’s debut of Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly at 7 p.m. EST on NBC.
Putin previously made blanketed comments denying any Russian interference, but on Thursday, he told reporters (via The Associated Press) that perhaps “patriotic hackers,” whom he likened to “artists,” could have acted “on behalf of their country.”