After President Donald Trump refused to confront Vladimir Putin over Russia’s direct interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Fox News host Chris Wallace decided to do it for him.
In an “exclusive” interview with the Russian president that followed his private meeting with Trump and their shocking joint press conference, Wallace literally held up Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers and demanded an explanation.
Putin appeared to laugh in Wallace’s face as he outlined the charges. When the host tried to hand him the stack of papers, the Russian president would not touch it, indicating that the host could place it on the table between them.
"Russia has never interfered in the internal affairs of the United States,” Putin said definitively. “Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States — do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans? This is utterly ridiculous.”
But unlike Trump, Wallace kept pressing him.
The host repeatedly interrupted Putin, asking how his denials can be true when the charges are outlined so specifically in the indictment. Putin, clearly not used to being interrupted when he speaks, grew increasingly agitated and told the host to be “patient,” saying, “let me finish” in several moments.
At one point, Putin seemed to acknowledge the hacking of the DNC emails, but said that since the information released from it that showed the party favoring Hillary Clinton over rival Bernie Sanders was not “manipulated” and that thus there was nothing wrong with sharing those stolen emails with the American people.
Wallace also asked directly if Putin had “kompromat” on Trump or viewed him as an asset to be “played” given how deferential Trump has behaved towards Russia, most notably at Monday’s press conference. “Do you find President Trump easy to deal with?” he asked. Putin quickly dismissed that notion, insisting that he simply wanted to improve relations with the U.S.
“We don’t have anything on them,” Putin said. “I don’t want to insult President Trump when I say this, and it may come [off] as rude, but before he announced that he will run for presidency, he was of no interest to us.”
“He was a rich person, but, well, there's plenty of rich persons in the United States,” Putin added of Trump. “He was in the construction business. He organized the beauty pageants. But no, it would never occur to anyone that he would think of running for president.”
Later, Wallace confronted Putin about his long list of “political enemies” that have ended up dead. In an attempt at moral equivalence, Putin asked, “Haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?”
Citing the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Putin went on, “That’s something that happens on the U.S. soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.”