President Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the US intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election in his favor, dismissing the investigation into whether or not his campaign colluded with Russia as “fake news,” a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”
But Trump slightly changed his tune after a federal grand jury on Friday indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities for allegedly waging information warfare against the United States.
In a tweet hours after the indictments were issued, Trump acknowledged that Russia did indeed wage a years-long operation against the United States. He maintained, however, that his campaign in no way colluded with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Here are the many times Trump has cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and dismissed the investigation into alleged collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
Trump said at a press conference on the Russia investigation: “For 11 months, they’ve had this phony cloud over this administration, over this government and it has hurt our government, it does hurt our government. It’s a Democrat hoax”.
After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump told Reuters in an interview that he asked Putin whether or not Russia meddled in the US election.
“I said, ‘Did you do it?’ He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not.'”
Trump went on to acknowledge that “something happened.”
“Look. Something happened and we have to find out what it is, because we can’t allow a thing like that to happen to our election process,” Trump said. “So something happened and we have to find out what it is.”
About Putin, he said: “Somebody did say if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.”
Trump said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that he had assured Trump that there was no interference in the campaign.
“I asked him again,” Trumptold reporters on a flight to Hanoi. “You can only ask so many times… He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.
“I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it… I think he’s very insulted, if you want to know the truth,”
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Trump said that if you don’t catch a hacker in the act, it’s hard to tell who actually did it.
“Knowing something about hacking, if you don’t catch a hacker, okay, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking,” Trump said. “With that being said, I’ll go along with Russia. It could have been China. It could have been a lot of different groups.”
The president then went on to call allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia a “phony story.” When asked whether Russian meddling in the election was phony, Trump said: “That I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Trump tweets again, calling Russia talk “FAKE NEWS”:
Trump claimed in a Tweet that the Democrats fabricated the Russia story due to losing the election:
He also said in a press conference that day: “Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven’t made a phone call to Russia in years. Don’t speak to people from Russia. Not that I wouldn’t. I just have nobody to speak to. I spoke to Putin twice. He called me on the election. I told you this. And he called me on the inauguration, a few days ago.“
Trump mentions that he doesn’t know Putin and that “haters are going crazy” in reference to Russia. He also mentions former President Barack Obama‘s deal with Iran:
Trump tweeted, questioning why the White House would wait so long if Russia or any other entities were hacking U.S. organizations.
At the second presidential debate, Trump said that he didn’t know Putin, but he said it would be great if we could get along better with Russia so we could fight ISIS together.
“But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” Trump said at the debate. “Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia.”
During Trump’s first head-to-head debate against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Clinton argued that there was “no doubt” that Russia was using cyberattacks against American organizations.
However, Trump said: “I don’t know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC,” Trump said at the debate. “She keeps saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
In an interview with Larry King, King asked Trump his opinion on U.S. intelligence investigating whether Russia launched a covert operation to disrupt the election.
Trump replied: “I don’t know. I’ve been hearing about it. I’ve been reading about it. I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out, who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely, but you know, who knows? I hope that if they are doing something, I hope that somebody is going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all.”
Trump accused the DNC of “hacking” itself to release its own opposition research on him. The Washington Posthad reported that the opposition research was stolen by Russian government hackers.
“We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader,” Trump said, according to Politico.
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