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Fox News’ Chris Wallace Pushed Putin to Answer the Questions Trump Didn’t Raise

July 17, 2018, 10:16 AM UTC

President Trump’s soft ball Helsinki meeting with Russian President Putin drew criticism from many on Monday.

But where Trump did not push Putin, Fox News’ Chris Wallace did.

Wallace hosted Putin for his first interview with American media since last June, pressing the Russian leader on a number of issues, including the attacks and death of Putin’s political enemies, Mueller’s recent indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers, and whether Putin has any compromising material on Trump.

Mueller indictments

Highlighting Putin’s denial of Russian government involvement in U.S. election interference, Wallace produced papers outlining Mueller’s recent charges against the 12 Russian intelligence officers. When Wallace began to enumerate the charges and then sought to hand the papers to Putin, the Russian leader appeared to laugh and gestured for Wallace to place the papers on the table between them.

“Russia has never interfered in the internal affairs of the United States,” Putin replied.

Throughout the conversation, Wallace continued to try to redirect the conversation toward the question of Russian involvement, to which Putin appeared to get increasingly defensive. He told Wallace, “Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States — do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans? This is utterly ridiculous.”

He also scolded Wallace a number of times, telling him, “if you have some patience you’ll have the entire response,” and “if you don’t like my answer you can give it to me straightway, and I’ll just keep silent. And if you want Americans to listen to my opinion, could you please wait for a little bit?” and then called on Wallace to “let me finish.”

Attacks on political rivals

Wallace pointedly asked Putin why “so many people” who are his political enemies “are attacked” to which Putin replied, “first of all, all of us have plenty of political rivals. I’m pretty sure President Trump has plenty of political rivals.”

When Wallace pressed him, noting that they “don’t end up dead,” Putin replied that “haven’t presidents been killed in the United States? Have you forgotten about — well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King?”

“All of us have our own set of domestic political problems,” Putin added.

Turning back to Russia and specifically the recent Skripal case (where Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was poisoned in the U.K.), Putin simply explained that “we do have crime and we unfortunately — there are some crimes.”

“And to some extent, Russia’s statehood is maturing,” he continued. “And there are some side effects. And we prosecute people responsible for these crimes.”

Dirt on Trump

Noting that he found the press conference between Trump and Putin “a bit curious” insofar as Trump focused more on criticizing the Democrats than Putin, Wallace highlighted a number of theories as to why Trump is “so reluctant” to criticize Putin.

Possibilities, according to Wallace, include that Putin has “kompromat” or compromising information on Trump, or that “as a skilled politician” Putin knows “how to play him.” He then directly asked Putin, “do you find President Trump easy to deal with?”

Without directly answering Wallace’s question, Putin asked, “Was it worth going all the way to Helsinki, going through the Atlantic to just insult one another?”

“There’s no need to go and meet person if you just want to insult one another,” he continued. “We met to try to find a way to improve our relationship and not aggravating it or destroying it completely.”

“We don’t have anything on them,” Putin continued. “I don’t want to insult President Trump when I say this, and it may come [off] as rude, but before he announced that he will run for presidency, he was of no interest for us. He was a rich person, but, well, there’s plenty of rich persons in the United States.”

“He was in the construction business. He organized the beauty pageants. But no, it would never occur to anyone that he would think of running for president. He never mentioned his political ambitions. It sounds like it’s utter nonsense,” Putin concluded.