DANANG, Vietnam — President Trump said on Saturday that he believed President Vladimir V. Putin was sincere in his denials of interference in the 2016 presidential elections, calling questions about Moscow’s meddling a politically motivated “hit job” that was hindering cooperation with Russia on life-or-death issues.
Speaking after meeting privately with Mr. Putin on the sideline of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Danang, Vietnam, Mr. Trump said that he had again asked whether Russia had meddled in the contest, but that the continued focus on the issue was insulting to Mr. Putin.
Mr. Trump said it was time to move past the issue so that the United States and Russia could cooperate on confronting the nuclear threat from North Korea, solving the Syrian civil war and working together on Ukraine.
“He said he didn’t meddle — I asked him again,” Mr. Trump told reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One as he flew to Hanoi for more meetings. “You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
Mr. Trump did not answer a direct question about whether he believed Mr. Putin’s denials, but his account of the conversation indicated he was far more inclined to accept the Russian president’s assertions than those of his own intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Mr. Putin directed an elaborate effort to interfere in the vote. The C.I.A., the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all determined that Russia meddled in the election.
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“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Putin. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
His remarks came as the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia deepened, with disclosures over the past two weeks showing that there were more contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians than were previously known, and that senior campaign officials were aware of them.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump seemed to walk his comments back a bit, saying that he did not dispute the assessment of the nation’s key intelligence agencies that Russia had intervened in the 2016 presidential election.
“As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership,” Mr. Trump said at a news conference in Hanoi alongside Vietnam’s president, Tran Dai Quang. “I believe in our agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly.”
Mr. Trump’s earlier comments inspired immediate ridicule from Democratic lawmakers, including Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the election.
“You know who else is insulted by it, Mr. President? The American people,” Mr. Schiff said on Twitter. “You believe a foreign adversary over your own intelligence agencies.”
Representative Ted Lieu, another California Democrat, called Mr. Trump “dumb as a rock.” Mr. Lieu wrote on Twitter that both he and Mr. Trump had seen classified information on Russia’s interference in the election, and that Mr. Trump’s comments were lies.
“Trump knows the Kremlin hacked America last year,” Mr. Lieu said.
Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in response to Mr. Trump’s statements, “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a K.G.B. colonel over that of the American intelligence community.”
Mr. Trump angrily dismissed the criticism in a tweet on Sunday morning.
“When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he wrote, adding that critics were “playing politics — bad for our country.”
“I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism,” he added, “and Russia can greatly help!”