Putin: Obama’s govt is working hard to undermine Trump
Moscow — President Vladimir Putin took a parting shot at the Obama administration Tuesday, accusing it of trying to undermine Donald Trump’s legitimacy with fake allegations and “binding the president-elect hand and foot to prevent him from fulfilling his election promises.”
In his first public remarks about an unsubstantiated dossier outlining unverified claims that Trump engaged in sexual activities with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel, Putin dismissed the material as “nonsense.”
“People who order such fakes against the U.S. president-elect, fabricate them and use them in political struggle are worse than prostitutes,” Putin said. “They have no moral restrictions whatsoever, and it highlights a significant degree of degradation of political elites in the West, including in the United States.”
Separately, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was a “rude provocation.” The diplomat contemptuously called its author a “runaway swindler from MI6,” Britain’s foreign intelligence agency. Trump has rejected the sexual allegations as “fake news” and “phony stuff.”
The statements by Putin and Lavrov reflected the Kremlin’s deep anger at President Barack Obama’s administration in a culmination of tensions that have built up over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Putin said the allegations were part of efforts by the Obama administration to “undermine the legitimacy of the president-elect” despite his “convincing” victory.
Asked about Putin’s remarks, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it “was not the first time the intelligence community has had some uncomfortable things to say about Russia.”
“These are the kind of things I’m sure the Russians would rather not to hear, but ultimately, and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide, there’s a pretty stark divide here,” he added.
Putin voiced hope that “common sense will prevail” and Russia and the United States will be able to normalize relations once Trump takes office Friday.
“I don’t know Mr. Trump,” Putin said. “I have never met him and I don’t know what he will do on the international arena. I have no reason whatsoever to assail him, criticize him for something, or defend him.”
Putin ridiculed those behind the dossier for alleging Russian spy agencies collected compromising material on Trump when he visited Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant.
“He wasn’t a politician. We didn’t even know about his political ambitions,” Putin said at a news conference. “Do they think that our special services are hunting for every U.S. billionaire?”
Putin also sarcastically suggested that Trump, who met the world’s most beautiful women at the pageant, had a better choice for female companionship than Moscow prostitutes, even though Putin claimed “they are also the best in the world.”
At a separate news conference, Lavrov also said Moscow hopes for better relations with Washington once Trump takes office.
Trump meets Supreme Court candidate
Trump has met with one of the judges on his short list for potential Supreme Court nominees, less than two weeks before he is expected to announce his choice for the nation’s highest court.
Judge William Pryor, an Alabama-based judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, met with Trump in New York on Saturday, said two people familiar with the meeting. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting had not been publicly announced.
Infrastructure promises given to mayors
Vice President-elect Mike Pence is pledging to a group of mayors that the Trump administration will make a serious investment in infrastructure.
Speaking Tuesday to a meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, Pence said President-elect Trump told him to pass on that “we’re going to do an infrastructure bill and it’s going to be big.”
Trump, who consistently lamented the state of American bridges, roads and airports on the campaign trail, has promised to invest $1 trillion in transportation and infrastructure spending, though he has provided few details.