The Slatest

Trump Again Makes Clear He Doesn’t Believe Intelligence Community on Russian Meddling

President Donald Trump prepares to board Air Force One at Morristown Airport in Morristown, New Jersey on July 22, 2018.
President Donald Trump prepares to board Air Force One at Morristown Airport in Morristown, New Jersey on July 22, 2018. NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images

President Donald Trump seemed to make clear on Sunday that he doesn’t, in fact, believe the intelligence community that Russia interfered with the 2016 election. “So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election,” Trump wrote Sunday evening. “Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!”

By calling Russian interference in the election a “big hoax,” Trump seems to once again be contradicting the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies. In effect, this appears to be a walk back from his previous walk back on the issue. After he received lots of bipartisan criticism for seemingly siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the issue of Kremlin’s efforts to influence the election, Trump claimed he had misspoken. “I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies, I always have,” Trump said. “And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that, and I have said this many times, I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. It could be other people, also. There are lots of people out there.”

Yet it now seems the commander in chief has changed his mind again, and thinks the whole thing is “all a big hoax,” as he wrote on Sunday. Many were quick to point out that it seems Trump is back to suggesting the same thing he did during the news conference with Putin in Helsinki. “Insofar as one can understand this more than usually incoherent tweet, Trump is back to claiming Russian interference in the 2016 election is a hoax,” wrote Bill Kristol.

The New York Times’ Julie Davis also pointed out that the president’s choice of words “certainly does not sound like a president who accepts the findings of the intelligence community that Russia attacked the election.”

In addition to the whole questioning of the country’s intelligence agencies angle, Trump’s tweet is also—not surprisingly—factually wrong. As NBC reported in December, senior FBI officials explicitly warned Trump after he became the Republican nominee that foreign powers, including Russia, would try to infiltrate his campaign. Hillary Clinton also received a similar briefing.

Trump’s tweet calling Russian interference in the election “a big hoax,” came at the end of a day when the president was particularly active on Twitter accusing the nation’s law enforcement agencies of trying to get Hillary Clinton elected president. Without citing any evidence, Trump said that newly released documents relating to the surveillance of a former campaign adviser, Carter Page, “confirm with little doubt” that the FBI and Department of Justice “misled the courts.” He also said it seemed to provide more evidence that “the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC.”