Trump, Putin Discuss Possible New Nuclear Accord and Mueller Probe

White House says two discussed possibility of a new multilateral nuclear accord between the United States, Russia and China - and briefly touched on Special Counselor's investigation into Russian interference in 2016 elections

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shaking hands during a meeting at the Residential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 2018.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais,AP

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for more than an hour on Friday, discussing the possibility of a new nuclear accord, North Korean denuclearization and the political situation in Venezuela, the White House said.

Trump said he didn't raise the issue of election meddling with Putin.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump and Putin talked about the possibility of a new multilateral nuclear accord between the United States, Russia and China, or an extension of the current U.S.-Russia strategic nuclear treaty.

Sanders said the conversation lasted for more than an hour and briefly touched upon Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. She said that issue was discussed in the context that the investigation had ended.

"They discussed a nuclear agreement, both new and extended, and the possibility of having conversations with China on that as well," Sanders said.

"They discussed trade and the fact that it has increased between the two countries since the president has come into office. They also talked about North Korea. They also spoke about Ukraine and Venezuela - an overall positive conversation," she said.

President Trump said later on Friday that he discussed "the Russia Hoax" with Putin but did not raise with him concerns about Russian meddling in U.S. elections in their first phone call since Mueller's report, which found that the Russian government had interfered in the election "in sweeping and systematic fashion." 

Trump, talking to reporters as he met Slovak Republic Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, indicated that he and Putin only discussed Mueller's conclusion that Trump did not collude with Russia in 2016. 

Trump said Putin seemed amused. "He said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain and it ended up being a mouse. But he knew that because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever," said Trump. 

Pressed on whether he urged Putin not to meddle in the upcoming 2020 election, when Trump will be seeking re-election, the president said the issue was not discussed. 

"We didn't discuss that. Really, we didn't discuss it. We discussed five or six things," he said. 

In a tweet, Trump said he and Putin talked about "the Russia Hoax," among other topics including nuclear arms, North Korea and Venezuela. 

Trump has raised election meddling with Putin in past conversations, but has tended to play down the impact of what happened in 2016 out of concern that his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton might seem illegitimate. 

White House spokeswoman Sanders, asked by reporters on the White House driveway why Trump did not press Putin on the issue, said: "The president's been clear that no one needs to meddle in our election. He doesn't need to do that every two seconds."