Donald Trump has said he plans on bringing up the issue of meddling in the 2016 presidential election during his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The pair are set to meet on 16 July in Helsinki, Finland to discuss a number of topics from the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine to sanctions imposed by the two nations against each other.
Speaking from the Nato summit in Brussels Mr Trump said Mr Putin will likely keep up his repeated denials of interference. “Look, he may. What am I going to do?” Mr Trump said. “He may deny it. All I can do is say, ‘Did you?’ And, ‘Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it. You’ll be the first to know”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading the FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the presidential election and any possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials.
Mr Trump has repeatedly called the FBI probe and two Congressional investigations into the meddling part of a “witch hunt” and denied any wrongdoing. The US has placed sanctions on 19 Russian entities and individuals, including Mr Putin’s personal chef, for their alleged involvement in election interference.
Mr Trump referred to Mr Putin as a “competitor” and not an enemy of the US before heading for Europe,
“Somebody was saying, is he an enemy? He’s not my enemy. Is he your friend? No, I don’t know him very much. Hopefully, someday, he’ll be a friend. It could happen,” Mr Trump said.
This will be the third face-to-face meeting of the world leaders, although it will be the first full summit. The first took place last year at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany and the second during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Vietnam last November.
In Hamburg, Mr Trump said it was an “honour” to meet Mr Putin and speak for nearly two and a half hours in private.
One the agenda in Helsinki will be Russia’s support of the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the bloody conflict and possibly its 2014 annexation of Crimea region of Ukraine.
Mr Trump would not confirm whether he would recognise the annexation and instead deflected blame onto his predecessor, saying he would have never “allowed” Russia annex the region like Barack Obama did.
The president also claimed world leaders at the Nato summit “thanked” him for meeting with Mr Putin, however none have said so publicly.
“They thought it was a great thing that I was doing it, and they gave us our best wishes, or their best wishes,” he said.
Mr Trump is currently on the UK leg of his European trip.