World

Putin on having compromising material on Trump: Have you all lost your senses?

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin strongly denied he had any compromising material about US President Donald Trump in a sometimes combative televised interview broadcast yesterday.

"Well, this is just another load of nonsense," Mr Putin said on NBC News' Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly, when asked whether he had any damaging information on the Republican president.

The remarks were the latest in a series of denials from Moscow that have had little impact so far on a political crisis in the United States over potential links between Russia and Mr Trump's inner circle.

The issue will be front and centre this week in Washington, where former FBI Director James Comey is due to testify on whether Mr Trump tried to get him to back off from an investigation into alleged ties between his election campaign and Moscow.

Comey, who was leading the FBI probe into alleged Russian meddling in last year's US presidential election, was fired by Mr Trump last month, four years into his 10-year term.

Mr Putin also told NBC that regardless of Mr Trump's previous travel to Russia as a businessman, he had had no relationship with him and had never met him.

He also noted that executives from perhaps 100 American companies were currently in Russia.

"Do you think we're gathering compromising information on all of them right now or something?" Mr Putin asked, before saying: "Have you all lost your senses?"

Mr Trump has offered contradictory accounts of his relationship with Mr Putin over time but has also said the two never met.

The two have spoken several times by phone since Mr Trump's election.

The US President has called an FBI investigation into alleged ties between his campaign and Russia a "witch hunt" designed to undermine the legitimacy of his 2016 election win.

Mr Trump has also disparaged a dossier of unsubstantiated allegations that purported to show Russian intelligence operatives had compromising information about him - describing it as a "hoax".

US intelligence agencies concluded in January that Moscow tried to tilt the election campaign in Mr Trump's favour, including by hacking into the e-mails of senior Democrats, a charge the Kremlin denies.

"They have been misled," Mr Putin said.

"And they aren't analysing the information in its entirety.

"I haven't seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the (US) presidential election."

Mr Trump has denied any collusion but the FBI and congressional probes into the Russia matter have dogged the early months of his presidency. 
- REUTERS

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