Putin says Trump was impeached for 'far-fetched' reasons

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Pobeda (Victory) Organizing Committee in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached for “far-fetched” reasons, calling the move by Democrats a continuation of their fight against the Republican leader.

“It's simply a continuation of internal political struggle,” Putin said at his end-of-year news conference in Moscow. “The party that lost the (2016) election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results by other means."

He likened Trump's impeachment to the earlier U.S. probe into collusion with Russia, which Putin played down as groundless. Former special counsel Robert Mueller concluded earlier this year that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion.”

“Now they invented some sort of pressure on Ukraine,” Putin said, referring to the investigation of Trump's trying to enlist the president of that country to announce investigations of his political rival as he withheld U.S. aid to Kyiv.

Trump on Wednesday became only the third American president to be impeached. The historic vote in the House of Representatives split along party lines over a charge of abusing his power. The House also approved a second article that he obstructed Congress in its investigation.

Noting the Republicans have a majority in the Senate, where a trial of Trump will be conducted, Putin said “they will be unlikely to remove a representative of their own party from office on what seems to me absolutely far-fetched reasons.”

Turning to the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with the U.S. that expires in 2021, Putin said that Russia is ready to extend it “even tomorrow,” warning that the demise of the last U.S.-Russian arms control deal will remove the final barrier stemming an arms race.

Putin spoke on a variety of issues during the marathon news conference that lasted for more than four hours and was dominated by local issues, such as Russia's ailing health care system and federal subsidies for the regions.