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Trump backs US spies on Russia meddling, but slams Putin ‘haters’

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By Agence France-Presse

Donald Trump said Sunday he backed the US intelligence agencies which concluded that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, but slammed “fools” who oppose better ties with Moscow.

Key former Trump aides are under US investigation for possible collaboration with the Kremlin, and the issue of whether Moscow interfered with last year’s vote has overshadowed the tail end of the president’s 12-day Asia tour.

US President Donald Trump (L) chats with Russia's President Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV /MANILA BULLETIN)

US President Donald Trump (L) chats with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as they attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang on November 11, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / SPUTNIK / Mikhail KLIMENTYEV /MANILA BULLETIN)

Trump returned to the subject in a Twitter storm in Vietnam, which also saw him take a sarcastic dig at North Korea’s “short and fat” leader Kim Jong-Un.

At a press conference in Hanoi, Trump was asked to clarify comments he had made the day before about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Moscow had never tried to affect the US vote.

“I believe he feels he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said.

“As to whether or not I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies. I believe in our… intelligence agencies,” he added.

But in his barrage of tweets, Trump slammed “haters and fools” who questioned his efforts to improve ties with Russia.

“There (sic) always playing politics – bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!” he said.

In May, US intelligence chiefs told Congress they agreed with their analysts’ conclusion that Russia had interfered in the election, and on Saturday, CIA director Mike Pompeo, a Trump appointee, said he still held to that evaluation.

But after sticking to script through most of his high-profile Asia trip, Trump lashed out at three former US officials whose agencies helped produce the original intelligence finding of Russian interference. He called former CIA chief John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former FBI chief James Comey “political hacks.”

Appearing later on CNN, Brennan denounced Trump’s attack as “reprehensible,” and Clapper said that for Trump to so minimize a Russian attempt to undermine the US system was “astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country.”

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