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‘Those are stupid people’: Trump reportedly tried to calm Putin after he complained that White House officials were trying to stop them from speaking

donald trump phone call oval office
President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, January 28, 2017.

Associated Press/Andrew Harnik


During a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, President Donald Trump reportedly sought to ease Putin’s concerns that White House officials were trying to block a conversation between the two.

After Putin mentioned that White House officials were trying to interfere, a person with direct knowledge of the conversation said that Trump told to Putin, “Those are stupid people; you shouldn’t listen to them,” The New York Times reported Monday.

At the time, Trump ignored his national security advisers and congratulated Putin on what was widely believed to be a sham reelection victory. Trump had received a briefing with the instruction, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

Trump had also invited Putin to the White House, which would be the first such visit since 2005, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said to Russian journalists in April.

Trump has long admired Putin, and believes the US and Russia can be allies, according to multiple reports on his attitude toward Putin and his regime. The news about Trump’s interaction with Putin comes ahead of a scheduled NATO summit in Brussels on Tuesday, and a planned one-on-one meeting with Putin in Finland next week.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia described Trump’s desire to make nice with Russia as “very problematic.”

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Associated Press

“This administration seems to treat our allies as adversaries, and treat our adversaries, or potential adversaries, like their friends,” Warner said to CNN on Monday. “[Trump] doesn’t at least seem to reflect that what we share in common with our NATO allies is not only a common defense alliance, but we have a shared belief in rule of law. We have a shared belief in democracy.”

“Mr. Putin represents none of those values,” Warner said. “Yet you see out of the president, constant acclaim.”

Trump’s relationship with NATO allies has been tenuous since before he took office. He has often railed against the US’s key allies, accusing fueling trade deficits with the US.

“The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country,” Trump claimed in a tweet on Monday. “This is not fair, nor is it acceptable.”

In addition to straining ties with NATO countries, Trump floated the idea of allowing Russia back into the Group of 7. In 2014, Russia’s membership in what was formerly the G8 was revoked after it annexed Crimea.

“Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump said in June. “They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

This approach to diplomacy with Russia has foreign policy experts worried, particularly after Russia still stands accused of meddling with the 2016 US presidential election and being suspected of carrying out a deadly nerve-agent attack in the UK.

“In normal times, a president of the United States would rally the allies, develop a unified approach, and go with a strengthened hand to negotiations with the president of Russia, rather than reducing his own leverage” former NATO deputy secretary general Alexander Vershbow said to The Times.

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