President Trump on Thursday reiterated his desire to “get along” with Moscow despite an international uproar over the poisoning of the Russian dissident Aleksei A. Navalny with a deadly nerve agent, saying that when the subject of Russia appears on the news, he turns it off.
Speaking at a small campaign rally in Latrobe, Pa., Mr. Trump did not mention Mr. Navalny on a day when his press secretary issued a stern statement about the apparent assassination attempt against the dissident, who is the most prominent domestic critic of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Nor did he address new warnings from his own intelligence officials that Russia is seeking to interfere in the 2020 election on his behalf.
Instead, he boasted that he had kept the United States “out of wars,” and he pointed to his persistent efforts to thaw relations between Washington and Moscow. “It’s good that I get along,” Mr. Trump said. “If I get along with Russia, is that a good thing or bad thing? I think it’s a good thing.”
His remarks came hours after the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, called Mr. Navalny’s poisoning “deeply reprehensible” and said the United States would “hold those in Russia accountable wherever the evidence leads.” But she also insisted to reporters that “no one has been tougher on the Russian government than this president.”
While the Trump administration has taken some punitive actions against Russia’s government, including the expulsion of diplomats and an array of economic sanctions, it has done so mainly under pressure from Congress or European allies — and often only with Mr. Trump’s grudging approval, according to several former White House officials.