The Russian embassy in Washington said that it was President Donald Trump who initiated the call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and that the conversation lasted 90 minutes.
Trump said Friday that the controversial call was “probably more than an hour,” and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters it was “slightly more than an hour.”
Putin urged Trump to “ease the sanction pressure” on North Korea as it makes a “good-faith fulfillment of its commitment,” apparently to denuclearize, the embassy noted on Facebook. The phone conversation occurred the day before Pyonyang fired a barrage of unidentified projectiles into the Sea of Japan. A North Korean statement Saturday said the test of “large-caliber long-range” rockets and “tactical guided weapons” was intended to “increase the combat ability” of the country.
Putin also “underscored” that no nation should interfere in the politics of Venezuela, according to the Facebook statement.
Trump said that Putin is “not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela,” even though Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the day before that Russia had already become involved with Nicolas Maduro’s regime. “The Russians have people working over there in the hundreds, if not more,” said Pompeo, who warned Wednesday that U.S. “military action is an option” in the nation.
Trump tweeted again Saturday about his “very good call” with Putin, and blasted the “fake news media” for not giving it better play and touting the “potential for a good/great relationship with Russia.”
On Friday Trump tweeted that he and Putin discussed the “Russian hoax” at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller’s probe did not “establish” a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign to interfere in the presidential election. But Mueller’s report (backed by findings by U.S. intelligence) found that Russia interfered in the U.S. election “in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
Trump said Putin “sort of smiled” (though Trump could not see him on the phone) as they discussed the “Russian hoax,” and quoted him as saying that what “started off as a mountain … ended up being a mouse.” Trump said he did not specifically discuss election interference by Russia with Putin. The FBI has already noted the “significant counterintelligence threat” of Kremlin interference in the 2020 presidential election.