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Vladimir Smirnov / AP

Vladimir Putin spoke with Megyn Kelly during a panel at St. Petersburg's Economic Forum on Friday. Kelly grilled him on questions about alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election, NATO, and Syria, and Putin didn't shy away:

  • On reports of Russia meddling in U.S. election: "We should stop this idle prattle, which is harmful," said Putin. "There are no facts. Only suggestions and allegations." He later made the analogy that blaming Moscow for the outcome of the U.S. election is "like anti-semitism. [It's like saying] the Jews are to blame!"
  • On NATO's defense spending: "What is the point of NATO increasing defense spending if they aren't planning to attack anyone?" said Putin. When asked whether he believed that squabbles around NATO help Russia, he stated that they do if they help dismantle the organization.
  • On Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris deal: Putin defended Trump's decision, stating, "I wouldn't judge President Trump," and noted his support on the move to renegotiate a better deal. As for the media backlash? "It seems to me no one should be creating noise about it." He added that the exit process won't take full effect until 2020 anyway, so "don't worry, be happy."
  • On Russian ambassador to the U.S. meeting with several U.S. officials: "So our ambassador met someone. So what? It's his job," said Putin.
  • On alleged meetings between Trump aides and Moscow: "I had never known ... about anyone meeting anyone," said Putin. "There were no agreements whatsoever. ... This hysteria seems like it won't stop."
  • Does Putin think Syrian President Assad is evil? "You shouldn't be labeling people," said Putin. He also insisted that "there's no evidence to support" the claims that Assad used chemical weapons. Putin suggested that the reports were all staged, and that sarin gas "could have been used by someone in order to accuse President Assad."

Go deeper

11 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.

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