Trump, Putin speak by phone

Men last spoke by phone in mid-November

By KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE PRODUCER
Alex Wong/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump spoke Thursday with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who earlier in the day praised progress made by the Trump administration but chastised its approach to North Korea.

The Kremlin said the two men discussed US-Russia ties and increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The men last spoke by phone in mid-November. That followed a brief in-person handshake on the sidelines of a Pacific leaders summit in Vietnam.

Trump's relationship with the Russian leader is complicated by ongoing investigations into his campaign's ties to Moscow. US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia, at Putin's direction, attempted to meddle in last year's presidential election with the goal of helping Trump.

Putin has adamantly denied those accusations, and Trump said last month that he believes Putin is sincere in his denials.

During remarks at a marathon news conference Thursday, Putin said Trump had made some "fairly serious achievements" since he took office.

He borrowed Trump's own lines trumpeting the strength of the American economy, suggesting "investor confidence in the American economy, which means that they trust what President Trump is doing in this area."

But he lambasted what he called "espionage mania" surrounding the probes into Russian election meddling.

"It's delirium, it's madness," he said. "This is all dreamed up by people who are in the opposition to Trump so as to make sure that everyone thinks that what he's doing and working at is illegitimate."

And he criticized the US approach to North Korea, calling it "counterproductive."

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