President Trump initiated a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to thank the strongman leader for acknowledging “America’s strong economic performance” in his annual end-of-year press conference, according to the White House. The Kremlin said the conversation was held at the request of the U.S. The call came after Putin defended Trump against claims his presidential campaign colluded with Moscow. Blaming suspicions of Russian election meddling on “spy mania,” Putin said a “deep state” in the U.S. is fueling anti-Russia sentiment. “This is all made up by people who oppose Trump to make his work look illegitimate,” Putin was quoted as saying by The New York Times. His comments came the same day The Washington Post reported that Trump was explicitly informed of Putin’s involvement in a scheme to interfere in the 2016 election during his transition. Putin went on to acknowledge “quite serious achievements” under Trump, including a boost to the U.S. economy. “Look at the markets, how they went up; that speaks about investors’ trust in what he does,” Putin said.
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