SOCHI, Russia (REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday (May 17) that US President Donald Trump had not passed on any secrets to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during a meeting in Washington last week and that he could prove it.
Speaking at a news conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Mr Putin quipped that Mr Lavrov was remiss for not passing on what he made clear he believed were non-existent secrets.
“I spoke to him (Mr Lavrov) today,” said Mr Putin with a smile. “I’ll be forced to issue him with a reprimand because he did not share these secrets with us. Not with me, nor with representatives of Russia’s intelligence services. It was very bad of him.”
Mr Putin, who said Moscow rated Mr Lavrov’s meeting with Mr Trump “highly”, said Russia was ready to hand a transcript of Mr Trump’s meeting with Mr Lavrov over to US lawmakers if that would help reassure them. Putin added, “it will happen if the U.S. administration wishes so.”
A Kremlin aide, Mr Yuri Ushakov, later told reporters that Moscow had in its possession a written record of the conversation, not an audio recording.
Complaining about what he said were signs of “political schizophrenia” in the United States, Mr Putin said Mr Trump was not being allowed to do his job properly.
“It’s hard to imagine what else can these people who generate such nonsense and rubbish can dream up next,” said Mr Putin. “What surprises me is that they are shaking up the domestic political situation using anti-Russian slogans. Either they don’t understand the damage they’re doing to their own country, in which case they are simply stupid, or they understand everything, in which case they are dangerous and corrupt.”
US Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, dismissed Mr Putin’s offer as a potentially important piece of the puzzle.
“Probably the last person the person (Mr Trump) needs to vouch for him right now is Vladimir Putin… Sure, send it our way,” he said. “But its credibility would be less than zero.”
Two US officials said on Monday (May 15) that Mr Trump had disclosed highly classified information to Mr Lavrov about a planned Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) operation, plunging the White House into another controversy just months into Mr Trump’s short tenure in office.
Russia has repeatedly said that anti-Russian politicians in the United States are using groundless fears of closer ties with Moscow to sabotage any rapprochement and damage Mr Trump in the process.