- President Donald Trump spoke at length about Russia as reporters grilled him on whether his campaign had Russia contacts
- The president once again defended Russia and said he hoped for improved relations
- He referenced a Russian spy ship spotted off the U.S. coast – and said the greatest thing to do politically would be to 'shoot that ship'
- He said repeatedly he wants to 'make a deal'
- 'Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember? With the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks'
President Donald Trump said it would be easier politically for him to be 'tough' on Russia, but indicated he prefers to try to 'make a deal.'
The president even referenced the Russian spy ship that has spotted off the U.S. coast, first off Delaware and then off the coast of New England, to prove his point that a get-tough policy wouldn't work.
'The greatest thing I could do is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water. Everyone will say, 'Oh, it's so great, it's so great,' Trump said. That's not great.'
After a week when his administration was sent reeling by the resignation of security advisor Mike Flynn over his Russia contacts, Trump once again expressed an interest in improved relations with Moscow – who the intelligence community has concluded engaged in election hacking.
'The greatest thing I could do [politically] is shoot that ship that's 30 miles offshore right out of the water,' President Trump said as he spoke about his approach toward Russia
'I would love to be able to get along with Russia. Now, you've had a lot of presidents that haven't taken that tack. Look where we are now. Look where we are now. So, if I can - now, I love to negotiate things, I do it really well, and all that stuff. But - but it's possible I won't be able to get along with Putin,' Trump said.
Trump lambasted the Clinton administration for its attempted 'reset' with Russia – which included presenting a red 'reset' button to the Russian foreign minister that was not properly translated into Russian.
'I've done nothing for Russia. Hillary Clinton gave them 20 percent of our uranium. Hillary Clinton did a reset, remember? With the stupid plastic button that made us all look like a bunch of jerks.'
'Here, take a look. He looked at her like, what the hell is she doing with that cheap plastic button?' he continued.
'Nuclear holocaust would be like no other,' Trump said
The SSV-175 Viktor Leonov ship was 70 miles off the coast of Delaware - in international waters - heading north, according to officials (pictured in Cuba in 2015)
The intelligence-gathering ship Viktor Leonov has been spotted on and off around the East Coast over the past few years (pictured in Havana in 2014)
In this March 6, 2009, file pool photo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hold together a device a with a red button symbolizing the intention to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland
'Now tomorrow, you'll say 'Donald Trump wants to get along with Russia, this is terrible.' It's not terrible. It's good,' he told the press.
Revisiting the issue, he said: 'We had Hillary Clinton try and do a reset. We had Hillary Clinton give Russia 20 percent of the uranium in our country. You know what uranium is, right? This thing called nuclear weapons like lots of things are done with uranium including some bad things.'
Then, Trump turned to the dangers of a nuclear confrontation.
'If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along -- and don't forget, we're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There's no up-side.'
'We're a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we're allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, nuclear holocaust would be like no other.'
Trump got asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was 'testing' him.
'No, I don't think so. I think Putin probably assumes that he can't make a deal with me anymore because politically it would be unpopular for a politician to make a deal. I can't believe I'm saying I'm a politician, but I guess that's what I am now.'
'Because, look, it would be much easier for me to be tough on Russia, but then we're not going to make a deal,' Trump said.
President Trump got asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin was 'testing' him
'Now, I don't know that we're going to make a deal. I don't know. We might. We might not. But it would be much easier for me to be so tough – the tougher I am on Russia, the better. But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.'
'They're a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that's a good thing, not a bad thing,' Trump said.
Trump got asked about the Russian spy ship. 'Not good,' he said.
Then he got asked about a ballistic missile that could violate an agreement between the two countries, and a Russian plane that buzzed a U.S. destroyer.
'Not good,' Trump said.
His administration is under fire following the resignation of security advisor Mike Flynn over how he handled his contact with Russia.
Flynn gave a paid speech in Moscow and got seated next to Putin at a dinner celebrating the anniversary of Kremlin-backed Russia Today.
The New York Times reported that Trump campaign officials had multiple contacts with Russia during the campaign, but Trump said he didn't know about it.
Regarding Flynn's contacts with Russia after the election, Trump said: 'I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn't doing it.
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