Washington: US President Donald Trump has toughened his stance towards Russia and alleged Russian President Vladimir Putin was ‘probably’ involved in assassinations and poisonings, but ‘it's not in our country.’ “Of course they shouldn't do it,” the President said in an interview broadcast on Sunday night.
In his wide-ranging interview on CBS’s ‘60 Minutes’ that touched on his relationship with North Korea, China, Russia, and his own West Wing staffers and Cabinet, Trump claimed he has been tough with Putin personally. “I think I'm very tough with him personally. I had a meeting with him, the two of us," Trump said, referring to his summit with the Russian leader in which he declined at a press conference to endorse the US government's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. “It was a very tough meeting, and it was a very good meeting,” Trump said, when asked about the charge that he was quite cautious when it came to criticising the Russian president.
He said not just Russia that meddled in the 2016 presidential election. “They meddled. But I think China meddled, too. And I think other countries ." Trump said. He added, "And I think, frankly, China is a bigger problem."
Asked if the US, which has now imposed $250 billion in tariffs on China, planned more sanctions, the President said he ‘might - might’. "They want to negotiate ... they want to negotiate," he said.
When asked if he was ready to negotiate, Trump responded, "I have a great chemistry ... with President Xi (Jinping) of China. I don't know that that's necessarily going to continue. I told President Xi we cannot continue to have China take $500 billion a year out of the United States in the form of trade and other things ... and I said we can't do that, and we're not going to do that anymore."
Trump said he was not trying to push China into an economic depression.
"No, no, although they're down 32% in four months, which is 1929," the President said. He added, "I don't want that. ... I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like ... our markets are open."
When pressed over his embrace of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said he knew about Kim's human rights violations, but that his efforts have resulted in fewer threats to the United States. "Sure. I know all these things. I mean, I'm not a baby. I know these things," he said.
The President continued," Look, let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats.”
The President was evasive when asked whether defense secretary James Mattis would be leaving his post at the Pentagon. “Well, I don't know,” he said. "He hasn't told me that." Trump said the two maintained "a very good relationship," but he allowed for the possibility Mattis would leave.
Meanwhile, Kremlin on Monday downplayed comments by US President saying they did not amount to a direct accusation. “The US president didn't make any direct accusations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Russia has insisted two suspects in the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter are ordinary citizens.