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Photo: Yuri Kadobnova/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump today, at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he didn't see "any reason" why Russia would interfere in the 2016 election, in response to a question on whether he believed Putin or U.S. intelligence agencies.

Our thought bubble from Jonathan Swan in Helsinki: "I just have no words. As press in this room, we are all sitting in here speechless and stunned. Trump cast doubt over the U.S. intelligence community and endorsed Putin’s denial. Trump was given an opportunity to denounce the meddling and he didn’t; he just pivoted to lines about the missing server and Hillary’s emails. While Putin spoke forcefully, lying, Trump nodded along. There’s no way of sugar coating or spinning this."

Why it matters: This comes just days after Trump's own administration indicted 12 Russians for hacking the DNC with the intent of interfering with the election. The U.S. intelligence community has repeatedly concluded that Russia actively sought to interfere in the election, and plans to again.

When asked if he wanted Trump to win the election, Putin said, "Yes I did. Because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal."

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

More key quotes from Trump: He said that the relationship between the U.S. and Russia “has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago.”

  • On that deteriorating relationship, Trump said: "I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish... I think we've all been foolish. We're all to blame."
  • He called Putin a "good competitor," not an adversary.
  • "I beat Hillary Clinton easily... We won that race. And it's a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it."
  • "There was no collusion. I didn't know the president. There was nobody to collude with."
  • Trump called the Russia investigation "a disaster for our country."
  • When asked whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community or Putin over what happened in 2016, Trump said "I don't see any reason why it would be [Russia], I really want to see the server." He added, "President Putin was extremely strong in his denial."

And Putin:

  • “The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including [the] election process.”
  • "Could you name a single fact that would definitely prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the President recently mentioned." However, Putin offered to interrogate the 12 Russians indicted by the Justice Department.
  • Combatting the idea that Trump and Putin trust one another, Putin said, “You can trust no one.”
  • When asked about reports that Russia has compromising material on Trump: "Now to the compromising material, I did hear this rumor. When Trump visited Moscow back then, I didn’t even know he was in Moscow.”

Get more stories like this by signing up for our weekly political lookahead newsletter, Axios Sneak Peek.

Go deeper

Biden challenges GOP agenda: "What are Republicans for?"

President Biden pushed back against Republican efforts to obstruct his agenda during a press conference Wednesday, asking "What are Republicans for?"

Why it matters: Biden's speech comes as he approaches one year in office, facing low polling numbers and a stalled agenda.

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

American mask manufacturers are getting whiplash, having gone from sleepy sector to mission-critical industry overnight — only to see sales collapse before now being suddenly in demand again.

Why it matters: As the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 rages, health experts now say Americans need legitimate N95 or KN95 masks to best protect themselves — not widely available fakes or less effective cloth masks.

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Scoop: Ukraine tells senators post-invasion sanctions are no help

Zelensky. Photo: Johanna Geron/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told U.S. senators visiting Kyiv this week that waiting to impose sanctions on Russia until after an invasion is of no use to Ukraine, according to four sources familiar with the discussions.

Why it matters: The Senate is currently working on a major sanctions package to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are united in their support for Ukraine, but divided over whether it would be more effective to sanction Russia now to signal resolve, or hold up the threat of future sanctions to demonstrate the high costs of an invasion.