Putin continued to deny that his government played a role in hacking last year's presidential election

By Kathy Ehrich Dowd
June 04, 2017 07:20 PM

As the world continues to wonder what role Russia might have played in last November’s presidential election, Megyn Kelly sat down with the country’s leader, Vladimir Putin, for a feisty interview that aired on her new NBC show, Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.

The Russian president once again deflected suggestions that his government covertly oversaw a hacking operation that swayed the election toward Republican candidate Donald Trump.

The leader suggested that hackers from other nations “very skillfully and professionally shifted the blame onto Russia. Can you imagine something like that? In the midst of a political battle, by some calculations it was convenient for them to release this information so they released it, citing Russia. Can you imagine something like that? I can.”

He then went on to suggest that perhaps the American intelligence services were behind the hacking and were blaming Russia for an unspecified reason. He also attacked Kelly and the press for raising those questions.

You have created a sensation out of nothing. And out of this sensation you created a weapon of war against the president,” he said, referring to Trump. “You people over there … good job. Your lives must be boring.”

He also had an equally feisty reaction when asked if he had a dossier of information on Trump that he was using to blackmail the president.

“Well this just another load of nonsense,” he said. “Where would we get this information from? There was a time when he used to come to Moscow but, you know, I never met him. Do you think we’re gathering information on all of the [Americans visiting the U.S. on business]. Have you all lost your sense over there?”

The leader also downplayed any interaction he had with former U.S. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn when asked about an image the pair sitting together at a dinner for a Russian television network in Dec. 2015.

“When I came to the event for our company, Russia Today, and sat down at the table, next to me there was a gentleman sitting on one side,” Putin said of Flynn. “I made my speech. Then we talked about some other stuff. And I got up and left. And then afterwards I was told, ‘You know there was an American gentleman. He was involved in some things. He used to be in the security services’ … that’s it. I didn’t even really talk to him… That’s the extent of my acquaintance with Mr. Flynn.”

Although Putin appeared combative during the interview, Kelly said on Sunday Today with Willie Geist before the interview aired that unlike his public persona, Putin was “very personable” in private.

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“It was like two different men: Off-camera and privately he towards me was warm, extremely polite … was very personable one-one-one,” she said. “Then on-camera he was the Russian president that we’ve all come to know: He was combative, he was defiant, he was feisty, he was fiery, he was on offense on all of the issues, He was the Vladimir Putin Russians love to see.”

The interview was taped on Friday in St. Petersburg, shortly after she moderated a St. Petersburg International Economic Forum panel in which Putin displayed his trademark combativeness.

Plenary session at 2017 St Petersburg International Economic Forum
Credit: Vladimir SmirnovTASS via Getty

When Kelly asked about Russian interference in the election during the panel, Putin likened the accusations to prejudice.

“It reminds me of anti-Semitism,” he said, per the Associated Press. “A dumb man who can’t do anything would blame the Jews for everything.”

Although he continued to deny his country’s role in election meddling on Friday, he proclaimed during the forum that hacking is so easy, Kelly’s “underage daughter” could do it.

“IP addresses can be invented — a child can do that!” he also said, per NBC News. “Your underage daughter could do that. That is not proof.”

Kelly also spent time with Putin Thursday evening while they both took part in a state dinner at Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, although that footage did not air on Sunday.