Putin, on Mueller report: 'We said from the start it would find nothing'

ST PETERSBURG/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday commented for the first time on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s completed report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, saying Moscow had always said it would find nothing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a session of the International Arctic Forum in Saint Petersburg, Russia April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a summary released last month that Mueller had found no evidence of collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the election.

Putin, speaking at an Arctic forum in the Russian city of St Petersburg, said on Friday that Mueller’s findings were predictable for Moscow.

“That it (Mueller’s inquiry) would finish in that way - like a mountain giving birth to a mouse as they say - was clear to us in advance. I’ve been telling you this all along.”

“We said from the start that this infamous commission of Mr Mueller’s would not find anything because nobody knows this better than us. Russia did not meddle in any elections in the United States. There was no collusion, as Mr Mueller said, between Trump and Russia.”

Putin said the original allegations of collusion were “complete nonsense” that had been invented for domestic U.S. political consumption and as part of what he described as America’s internal political struggle.

The U.S. Attorney General told lawmakers on Tuesday that he intends to release the Mueller report to the public within a week.

While the Mueller report cleared Trump of colluding with Russia it did not clear Moscow of trying to meddle in the 2016 vote. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia did interfere, with a campaign of email hacking and online propaganda aimed at sowing discord.

When asked at the same event whether he wanted to see Trump re-elected next year, Putin declined to express a view, citing a long list of disagreements with the Trump administration and saying that the question of Trump’s possible re-election was purely a matter for the American people.

But Putin, who has praised Trump in the past, said he hoped Moscow and Washington would be able to work together to try to resolve their many differences on the international stage once what he described as the U.S. political crisis was over.

Putin in July last year said he had wanted Trump to win the 2016 U.S. presidential election because Trump had spoken of wanting to repair U.S.-Russia relations.

Overshadowed by the Mueller report and disagreements over everything from Syria to Ukraine, relations between Russia and the United States have in fact got worse under Trump.

Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Christian Lowe