For what appears to be the first time, President Donald Trump acknowledged on Thursday morning that he had been elected president with the help of the Russian government.
“Russia, Russia, Russia!” Trump tweeted. “That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”
But barely 20 minutes later, as Trump was heading out on a trip to the United States Air Force Academy, he denied what he had just said. “Russia did not help me get elected,” he said to reporters. “You know who got me elected? I got me elected.”
Trump has maintained that Russian interference in the 2016 election did not affect its outcome and has even repeatedly questioned whether Russia was attempting to help his campaign at all, despite U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion to the contrary.
Trump’s comments came as he again attacked Robert Mueller, who announced Wednesday that he had concluded his role as special counsel, and any supporters of Mueller’s investigation. “The Greatest Presidential Harassment in history,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “After spending $40,000,000 over two dark years, with unlimited access, people, resources and cooperation, highly conflicted Robert Mueller would have brought charges, if he had ANYTHING, but there were no charges to bring!”
In reality, Mueller said in a surprise press conference Wednesday that he had not concluded that the president had committed a crime, citing as part of his reasoning a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel document asserting that, under existing law, a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted by the federal government. He also noted that “if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”