Donald Trump has said he may ask Vladimir Putin during their upcoming summit meeting to extradite to the US 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Speaking in an interview with CBS Evening News conducted on Saturday ahead of his meeting with the Russian leader in Helsinki on Monday, the US president also sought to temper expectations about how much could be achieved.
Asked whether he would press Putin to send to the US members of the Russian military intelligence agency accused of hacking Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, he said: “Well, I might".
“I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it, but again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.” Trump added his Republican Party had also been the target of Russian hacking efforts but had superior cyber security measures in place.
“I think the DNC (Democratic National Committee) should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked,” he said. “They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too.
But - and this may be wrong - but they had much stronger defenses.” CNN reported in January, 2017 that then-FBI Director James Comey told a Senate panel that “old emails” of the Republican National Committee had been the target of hacking - but the material was not publicly released - and there was no sign the current RNC or the Trump campaign had been successfully hacked.
The two presidents have shared personal bonhomie in the past, but beyond the alleged hacking of the US election, their countries are deeply divided on a host of other issues including Syria and Ukraine.
Before coming to Europe, Trump predicted his meeting with Putin could be the “easiest” stage of a tour that included stops in Brussels and Britain.
But he told CBS that he was going into it with “low expectations.” “I’m not going with high expectations,” he said.
Trump also defended his decision to hold the meeting after coming under fire from opposition Democrats in the wake of the indictments.
“I think it’s a good thing to meet,” he said. “I believe that having a meeting with Chairman Kim was a good thing. I think having meetings with the president of China was a very good thing.
“I believe it’s really good. So having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea, I believe in it. Nothing bad is going to come out of it, and maybe some good will come out.” An excerpt of the interview will air on Sunday while the rest will be broadcast on Monday.