DA NANG, Vt. – President Donald J. Trump said he has taken Vladimir Putin at his word that the Russian president did not tape a sign reading ‘kick me’ on his back during a meet and greet with world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this weekend, despite numerous statements and a plethora of photographic evidence proving otherwise.
‘He said he didn’t do it. He said he didn’t put the sign there. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One as they flew from Da Nang to Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday. The president said he confronted Mr. Putin on three separate occasions during the summit, each time asking him about the ‘kick me’ sign. “Every time he sees me, he says, “I didn’t do that,” Trump said. “And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
The sign, which appeared to written in blue marker and constructed using a sheet of paper and scotch tape, hung prominently from President Trump’s blazer for most of the APEC summit and was clearly visible during the president’s thirty-minute address to Pacific Rim leaders. “It gave me quite a chuckle to see it dangling there while he was rambling on about trade abuses,” a member of China’s delegation to APEC told the Global Times. “Of course, no one wanted to be the first to kick him,” the official said, adding, “But everyone knew [Putin] put it there.”
Everyone, it seems, except Donald Trump. Citing discrepancies in statements made by Russian and American officials regarding the timing of the sign’s placement, the president remained steadfast in his belief that Putin couldn’t have been the culprit. “I mean give me a break, I can’t stand there and argue with him,” he said. “I’d rather have him get out of Syria, to be honest with you. I’d rather have him, you know, work with him on the Ukraine than standing and arguing about a sign.”
President Trump has become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks as his inability to make good on his campaign promise of fostering a friendly relationship with Russia becomes strikingly clear. The president has admitted both privately and publicly that he believes Russia and the United States “have the potential to have a very, very good relationship.”