On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted emails confirming that he had been told that the Russian government favored his father during the 2016 campaign.
But then just one day later, his father President Donald Trump argued in a televised interview that actually, Russia would have preferred Hillary Clinton — a claim that goes flatly against not only what was revealed in Trump Jr.’s explosive emails, but also the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community.
Trump has continuously cast doubt on the official assessment that Russia hacked the 2016 election, claiming as recently as last week’s G20 summit that “nobody really knows” who the culprit was.
In an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network’s Pat Robertson on Wednesday, however, he took a slightly different tack.
“We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive. That’s what Putin doesn’t like about me. And that’s why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military, he doesn’t want to see that,” Trump told Robertson.
— CBN News (@CBNNews) July 12, 2017
“So there are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he would want. So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think ‘probably not,’ because when I want a strong military, you know she wouldn’t have spent the money on military,” he said.
There’s little evidence that had Clinton won, she would have “decimated” the military. In fact, Clinton called for an end to the defense sequester — which could have opened the door up for increased defense spending.
There is, however, credible evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of boosting President Trump, as was the official diagnosis of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA. This was the official assessment from the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the NSA and the CIA (emphasis ours):
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. We have high confidence in these judgments.
Not only did Russia attempt to interfere in the election, but they did so with the express intention of boosting Trump over Clinton.
“We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment,” the report reads.
Here is page 4 (which did not post due to space constraints). pic.twitter.com/z1Xi4nr2gq
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Trump’s claims are even more brazen in the light of Tuesday’s news — which was dominated by his own son’s revelation that he had been told that the Russian government favored his father, and had accepted a meeting to receive information on Clinton he believed came from the Russian government.
The email came from Rob Goldstone, a publicist and the intermediary who set up a meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer:
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.
Trump Jr., upon being told that the Russian government wanted to help his father and had dirt on his opponent, replied “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
As a result of the email exchange, he later met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer, along with then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law and current senior White House adviser Jared Kushner.
According to Trump Jr.’s defense of the meeting, Veselnitskaya actually had no useful information on Clinton to share and wanted only to discuss the Magnitsky Act — the repeal of which is one of Putin’s primary goals in Washington.