Over the weekend, President Trump claimed he never said Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 presidential election, even though there are at least 44 recorded instances of him calling the Russia investigation a “hoax,” a “ruse” or “fake news.”
The president’s hand was forced last Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller’s release of 13 indictments of Russians for election meddling. On Sunday, Trump tweeted, “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’ The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”
I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
The president’s tweet doesn’t jibe with dozens of statements he made about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling — in which he called the idea a “hoax,” a “ruse,” “fake news” or a “witch hunt” — and at least one direct statement that Russians did not interfere.
Trump also has failed to criticize or condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin for what several intelligence analysts are calling the greatest covert intelligence attack against the United States. Instead, on several occasions, Trump defended Putin or attempted to explain his point of view. In November 2017, after a meeting with Putin during a trade summit, Trump said, “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. I think he is very insulted by it.”
In a May 2017 interview with Lester Holt of NBC News, Trump said, “This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
Earlier, Trump promoted more creative theories. In October 2016, after the intelligence community stated that Russia had penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s computers, Trump suggested the DNC had hacked itself and released its own emails.
In November 2016, Trump suggested there may have been no hacking at all. “Anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — [Hillary Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” said Trump. “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.”
In a December 2016 interview with Time magazine, the president-elect said, “I don’t believe they interfered.”
This week Trump has not explained why, if he agrees that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, he has yet to enforce sanctions approved near-unanimously by Congress in response to the meddling.