On the same morning the White House announced that President Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, Trump indicated he believes that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election because that’s what Putin told him.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump, whose campaign is under criminal investigation for possibly colluding with Russia, tweeted. “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”
Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2018
Trump’s indication that he takes Putin’s words for it puts him at odds with his own intelligence community.
From the consensus intelligence assessment released by the FBI, CIA, and NSA in January 2017:
We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.
Trump’s tweet also puts him at odds with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In January, while he was still serving as CIA director, Pompeo said he expects Russian to make another attempt to meddle in this year’s midterm elections.
“I haven’t seen a significant decrease in their activity,” Pompeo said.
During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Pompeo assured senators Trump will warn Putin during their upcoming summit that another attempt to interfere in this year’s midterm elections is “completely unacceptable.”
“I’m confident that when the president meets with Vladimir Putin he will make clear that meddling in our elections is completely unacceptable,” Pompeo said, in comments at odds with the blind faith Trump expressed in his Thursday morning tweet.
In February, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 individuals and a trio of Russian companies for “interference operations targeting the United States.” But during congressional testimony on February 27, NSA Director Mike Rogers told members of Congress the Trump administration hadn’t even authorized him to take measures to prevent election meddling going forward. Days later, the New York Times reported that the State Department had spent zero of the $120 million it was allocated to combat Russian election meddling
Then, during a news conference on March 6, Trump downplayed Russian interference, which he said “had no impact on our votes whatsoever.” The president cast doubt upon the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus conclusion — including ones offered publicly by his hand-picked officials — that the Putin regime was behind hacks and influence operations meant to help him win the presidency.
“Probably there was meddling from other countries, maybe other individuals,” Trump said, echoing the infamous comment he made during one of the presidential debates about how a “guy sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds” may have been responsible for Democratic hacks, not Russia.
During an interview that aired on MSNBC the following weekend, Putin — leader of a regime that rigs elections by harassing and excluding opposition candidates and controlling the media — used almost identical talking points to deny Russian involvement in Trump’s election.
“Listen, the world is very large, and very diverse, and there is a fairly complicated relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation, and some of our people have their own opinion about this relationship,” Putin said. “You mentioned a number of names, some individuals, and you are telling me they’re Russians — so what? Maybe being Russian, they’re actually working for some kind of American company. Perhaps one of them used to work for one of the candidates. I have no idea, these are not my problems.”
Putin isn’t the only strongman Trump is blindly trusting these days. In the wake of his summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un earlier this month in Singapore, Trump has repeatedly praised North Korean dictator Kim and expressed confidence that he will quickly denuclearize the country — despite the fact the agreement the two leaders signed doesn’t detail a denuclearization process.
Satellite images released earlier this week suggest, predictably, that Trump’s blind trust in Kim is misplaced. The images indicate that despite the vague assurances made to Trump, the Kim regime is in fact upgrading a nuclear facility in the country.