President Trump affirmed on Monday that he trusts Russian President Vladimir Putin more than he trusts his own intelligence agencies.
During a news conference following the two world leaders’ summit in Helsinki, a reporter pointed out to Trump that while Putin continues to deny interfering in the 2016 American presidential election, every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded he’s lying.
The intelligence community’s assessment was bolstered on Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller, who filed an indictment charging 12 members of Russia’s military intelligence with hacking materials that were later used as part of WikiLeaks’ pro-Trump propaganda campaign.
“Who do you believe?” the reporter asked.
Trump indicated that he believes Putin — but not before going on an unhinged rant in which he pushed a number of debunked DNC conspiracy theories.
“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
Trump then explained why he ultimately accepts Putin’s denials at face value.
“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question,” Trump said. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”
Trump concluded his answer with a rant about Hillary Clinton’s emails. He indicated he thinks Putin’s offer to have an international team of investigators look into the allegations in Mueller’s latest indictment is a good one.
“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails?” Trump said. “33,000 e-mails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
The conspiracy theories Trump is trying to spread about the DNC and Hillary Clinton have no merit. As ThinkProgress explained on Saturday:
There is no evidence that the theft of DNC emails — ones later published by WikiLeaks as part of a pro-Trump disinformation campaign — were the product of an inside job, as [Trump has] suggested.
On the contrary, the U.S. intelligence community and even Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee have concluded that Russian hackers were responsible for stealing emails from Democratic targets — a conclusion that’s bolstered by the number of details contained in Mueller’s latest indictment, including painstaking descriptions of how the hacks were carried out.
Earlier during the press conference, Trump was asked if he holds Russia at all responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Trump responded by bashing Democrats.
“I hold both countries responsible,” he said. “I think the US has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish.”
Trump and Putin have repeatedly used the same talking points to dismiss concerns about Russia’s 2016 hacks of Democratic targets — the product of which became the centerpiece of Trump’s closing message.
Trump’s comments during the Helsinki press conference were quickly and widely denounced, including by Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ).
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018