Russian President Vladimir Putin took a parting shot at the Obama administration Tuesday, accusing it of trying to undermine Donald Trump’s legitimacy with fake allegations and “binding the president-elect hand and foot to prevent him from fulfilling his election promises.”
In his first public remarks about an unsubstantiated dossier outlining unverified claims that Trump engaged in sexual activities with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel, Putin dismissed the material as “nonsense.”
“People who order such fakes against the U.S. president-elect, fabricate them and use them in political struggle are worse than prostitutes,” Putin said. “They have no moral restrictions whatsoever, and it highlights a significant degree of degradation of political elites in the West, including in the United States.”
Separately, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was a “rude provocation.” The diplomat contemptuously called its author a “runaway swindler from MI6,” Britain’s foreign intelligence agency. Trump has rejected the sexual allegations as “fake news” and “phony stuff.”
The statements by Putin and Lavrov reflected the Kremlin’s deep anger at President Obama’s administration in a culmination of tensions that have built up over the crisis in Ukraine, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Asked about Putin’s remarks, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it “was not the first time the intelligence community has had some uncomfortable things to say about Russia.”
“These are the kind of things I’m sure the Russians would rather not hear, but ultimately, and this is something that the next administration is going to have to decide, there’s a pretty stark divide here,” he added.
Putin voiced hope that “common sense will prevail” and Russia and the United States will be able to normalize relations once Trump takes office Friday.
“I don’t know Mr. Trump,” Putin said. “I have never met him and I don’t know what he will do on the international arena. I have no reason whatsoever to assail him, criticize him for something, or defend him.”
Putin ridiculed those behind the dossier for alleging that Russian spy agencies collected compromising material on Trump when he visited Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant.
“He wasn’t a politician. We didn’t even know about his political ambitions,” Putin said at a news conference. “Do they think that our special services are hunting for every U.S. billionaire?”
Putin also sarcastically suggested that Trump had a better choice for beautiful female companionship from among the contestants at the Miss Universe pageant than Moscow prostitutes, even though Putin claimed “they are also the best in the world.”
He said Trump’s foes are ready to go as far as to “stage a Maidan in Washington to prevent Trump from entering office” — a reference to the alleged U.S. role in organizing protests in the Ukrainian capital’s main square, Maidan, that forced the nation’s Russia-friendly president from power in 2014.
“People who are doing that are inflicting colossal damage to the interests of the United States,” Putin said. “How can you do anything to improve U.S.-Russian relations when they launch such canards as hackers’ interference in the election?”