Trump Still Can’t Admit That Russia Interfered in the Election

Even with all of the questions raised by Attorney General William Barr’s condensed summary of the Mueller report, there should be one thing we can all agree on: the Russian government attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Their efforts focused on getting Donald Trump elected, primarily by disparaging Hillary Clinton. We’ll never know how much their involvement impacted the outcome.

Regardless of what is actually included in the Mueller report or what other investigations uncover, there is no disputing the fact that Vladimir Putin tried to tamper with the election in favor of the candidate he preferred. There is, however, one person who still has a difficult time accepting that fact. Let’s review Trump’s record (from lists at Wired and Politico).

June 15, 2016: A day after the Washington Post breaks the news that the Democratic National Committee has been hacked, allegedly by Russian spies, Trump’s team issues a statement: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.”

July 27, 2016: In a news conference, Trump addresses the Russian hacking scandal: “They hacked—they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do,” he says. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

September 26, 2016: In the first presidential debate: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. [Clinton’s] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”

October 10, 2016: Days after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence release a unanimous assessment that the hacking incidents were authorized by “Russia’s senior-most officials,” Trump questions in the second presidential debate whether any hacking occurred at all. “I notice, any time anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians,” he says. “Well, [Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.”

November 28, 2016: Trump said of Russia: “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point.”

December 7, 2016: Trump reiterates, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

December 9, 2016: The Washington Post reports that the CIA believes the Russian government hacked the DNC with the explicit intention of helping Trump win the election. Trump’s transition team then responds in a short statement: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

December 11, 2016: Trump tells Fox News: “Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them.”

December 31, 2016: Trump again doubts his own intelligence agencies at a news conference in Florida: “I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

July 7, 2017: At a news conference in Poland, Trump stated: “Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been [that] a lot of people interfered.” But, he added, “nobody really knows for sure.”

July 9, 2017: After a meeting with Putin, Trump said, “He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. But I just asked him again, and he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they’re saying he did.” Trump continued: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe — I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he’s very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth. Don’t forget, all he said is he never did that, he didn’t do that. I think he’s very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”

July 16, 2018 : After another private meeting with Putin, Trump said this:

Trump lies about almost everything. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he still can’t admit that the Russian government attempted to interfere in the 2016 election to support him. That is precisely why Attorney General Barr didn’t include such a statement in his letter to Congress about the Mueller report. He knew that the boss didn’t want to hear it.

But if we can’t get this administration to at least admit to the one thing we all know for certain, then it is hard to believe them about anything else related to the whole Russian affair. It is also impossible to implement strategies to stop it from happening again if we don’t have consensus on this one point. So it would be very helpful if a White House reporter were to ask the president and attorney general to clarify themselves on this question at the earliest possible opportunity.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.