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Russian President Vladimir Putin hands U.S. President Donald Trump a World Cup football. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

President Trump, who seemed to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit Monday rather than the U.S. intelligence community, doubled down on the leader's strong denial of election meddling and criticized the United States' poor state of relations with Moscow during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

"[Putin] said there's absolutely no collusion, which you know, and everybody who watches this show knows, and I think most of the country knows ... And I tell you, I thought it was a really amazing time ... I thought that President Putin was very, very strong."
— President Trump

After that, Hannity seemed to agree with Trump's dismissal of collusion and moved onto other topics, including nuclear proliferation and the eradication of ISIS.

Other highlights:

  • Mueller investigation: Trump characterized Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe as a "phony, witch hunt deal” that’s driven "a wedge" between the U.S. and Moscow. He added that Putin agrees that it's "a shame."
  • Trump said he and Putin discussed War and Peace, Syria, and Ukraine: “At the end of this I think we came to a lot of real, good conclusions." Trump added that the summit was "really good" for Israel, “he loves Bibi.”

The backdrop: The interview with Hannity comes after the president cast doubts on the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump. His refusal to confront Russia, a U.S. adversary, stunned lawmakers from both parties.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
6 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

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