Trump Just Told Reporters ‘I Believe Putin Over U.S. Intelligence’
President Donald Trump told reporters on Saturday that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that the Kremlin did not attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, contradicting U.S. intelligence agencies.
Trump spoke with the Russian president this week in Vietnam during a joint summit with other Asia-Pacific countries. Following the meeting, a reporter asked Trump if the subject of Russian election interference came up.
“He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did. … Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump replied.
Trump also lamented that Putin is “very insulted” by the accusations of election meddling and blasted the U.S. intelligence community as “political hacks.”
“You hear it’s 17 agencies who agreed on the hacking. Well, it’s three,” he said. And one is Brennan. And one is, whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks. So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker. So you look at that.”
Trump’s remarks fly in the face of a report from U.S. intelligence agencies earlier this year that concluded that Putin had ordered hacking against the Democratic National Committee to help Trump get elected. The hacking is a subject of multiple federal investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia at all, which the president has strongly denied.
It’s worth noting that the number of agencies involved is four, not three: the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the F.B.I. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The remaining agencies didn’t report similar findings because not all 17 were involved in the assessment of Russian interference.
Trump has refused to blame Putin for the hacking. He also early last month missed a key deadline to implement new sanctions on Russia in response to the hacking, set in a bipartisan bill that he was forced to sign into law in August. Weeks later, Foreign Policy reported that the State Department shuttered the office that deals with sanctions policy.
On Saturday, Reuters reported that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are investigating how much President Trump knew about his campaign members’ contacts with Russian officials and representatives during the 2016 race.