Ahead of Putin summit, Trump casts doubt on Russian meddling

Senior Editor
Yahoo News

Shortly before the White House announced President Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, the commander in chief relayed Moscow’s denial that it interfered in the 2016 presidential election — despite the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies that it did.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”

But U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly said that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign. Trump has previously said he believes Putin’s denials, though he has also bashed former President Barack Obama for not having a more forceful response at the time.

In October 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a joint statement saying for the first time publicly that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee earlier in the year — and that “only Russia’s senior-most officials” could have authorized the operation.

In early January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report on Russia’s interference in the election, concluding with “high confidence” that Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” Putin’s goals, the report said, were to “undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency” — and to boost Trump’s election chances.

President Trump talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters)
President Trump talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam, on Nov. 11, 2017. (Photo: Jorge Silva/Reuters)

And in February, the directors of the CIA, FBI, National Intelligence, National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency unanimously reaffirmed their view that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign, has continued to meddle since Trump’s election and is targeting this year’s midterms.

“Frankly, the United States is under attack,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, then testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But Trump has refused to accept their conclusions, even as multiple investigations into his campaign’s contacts with Russia — and possible collusion with the Kremlin — continue.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia probe has already resulted in 20 indictments, including multiple charges against Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates; and 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities.

In April, Trump himself approved new sanctions against 24 Russians for Moscow’s alleged meddling and other “malign activity.”

President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit on July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit on July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

On Thursday, Trump continued his monthslong campaign to discredit the Mueller investigation.

“When is Bob Mueller going to list his Conflicts of Interest? Why has it taken so long? Will they be listed at the top of his $22,000,000 Report,” the president fumed. “And what about the 13 Angry Democrats, will they list their conflicts with Crooked H? How many people will be sent to jail and persecuted on old and/or totally unrelated charges (there was no collusion and there was no obstruction of the no collusion)…And what is going on in the FBI & DOJ with Crooked Hillary, the DNC and all of the lies? A disgraceful situation!”

The president also took aim at FBI agent Peter Strzok, who testified before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees for more than 11 hours — part of a Republican-led probe into the FBI and Justice Department’s conduct in 2016. Strzok’s anti-Trump text messages triggered conspiratorial claims from the president and his allies of a “deep state.”

“Lover FBI Agent Peter Strzok was given poor marks on yesterday’s closed door testimony and, according to most reports, refused to answer many questions,” the president tweeted. “There was no Collusion and the Witch Hunt, headed by 13 Angry Democrats and others who are totally conflicted, is Rigged!”

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s probe, and FBI Director Christopher Wray were scheduled to appear before House Judiciary on Thursday morning.

During the hearing, Rosenstein refuted Trump’s assertion that Mueller is conflicted.

“I’m not aware of any disqualifying conflicts of interest,” Rosenstein said.

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