Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told a Russia-funded television network that “it’s probably unlikely” that Russia is trying to influence the U.S. election.
Trump, who has faced backlash from both parties in recent days for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, was interviewed by Larry King, a veteran American journalist whose show airs Thursday evenings on RT America, the U.S. partner of a network originally called Russia Today.
When King asked about reports that U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether Russia is trying to disrupt the election, Trump said that he’s skeptical.
“I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out,” Trump said. He added, “I hope that if they are doing something, I hope that somebody’s going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all.”
Private cybersecurity analysts have blamed Russian intelligence agencies for electronic break-ins into Democratic Party computers, including a breach of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm.
Trump’s interview with King was promoted by RT America as an exclusive.
A Trump spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, suggested that Trump was not aware that King’s program was linked to the Russian-backed network.
“Mr. Trump recorded a short interview with Larry King for his podcast as a favor to Mr. King,” Hicks said. “What Larry King does with the interview content is up to him. We have nothing to do with it.”
During a televised forum Wednesday on national security, Trump complimented Putin for having “great control over his country.” Putin has offered kind words for Trump in the past as well.
“He’s been a leader far more that our president has been a leader,” Trump said of the Russian president.
The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, offered Trump a warning when asked about the relationship on Thursday.
“One has to be a little careful to let flattery affect one’s judgment,” Corker told CNN.
“Let’s face it, over the last several years, President Putin has operated in ways that very much have been against our interests,” Corker said. He said Putin “has done so in many ways, in a very ruthless manner.”