Donald Trump said Saturday that during a brief conversation with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an economic summit, the Russian president flatly denied meddling in the 2016 election that brought Trump to the White House.

‘He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,’ Trump said. ‘I just asked him again.’

‘He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.’

Trump called questions about his campaign’s alleged collusion with Moscow a ‘Democratic hit-job’ that ‘gets in the way’ of international diplomacy and serves as a ‘artificial barrier’ to cooperation ‘put into place by the Democrats.’

He said ‘people will die because of that’ as tense U.S.-Russia relations make it more difficult to cajole Putin into helping derail North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

‘I call it this artificial Democrat barrier that gets in the way,’ he said.

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