Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said it was “ridiculous” to suggest that President Donald Trump was being taken advantage of by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after Trump drew criticism for saying he believed Putin was sincere when he denied that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.
In an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mnuchin said Trump “is not getting played by anybody.”
“President Trump was focused on some very important issues, which are North Korea and Syria,” Mnuchin said. “And those are areas that we need to work together with Russia and get them on board with our strategy.”
After meeting with Putin during his five-nation trip across Asia, Trump drew attention to the issue when he told reporters on Air Force One that he believed Putin meant it when he said, “I didn’t do that.”
Top White House officials defended Trump’s comments on Russia during appearances on Sunday’s political talk shows, dismissing evidence that Russia tried to intervene in Trump’s presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton.
During a “Face the Nation” segment on CBS, Mnuchin said: “It’s really time to move on off this issue.”
“Nobody thinks this has had any impact on the election,” he said. “So whatever occurred, there was no impact. So I think the American public is ready to move on to more important issues: tax reform and foreign policy and national security.”
Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump believed there was “zero evidence of any ballot being impacted by Russian interference.”
“What the president is trying to do right now is recognize the gravest threat that America faces is North Korea developing nuclear weapons,” he said. “And nuclear weapons in North Korea is a greater threat than Russia buying Facebook ads in America.”