Trump claims he ‘never said Russia did not meddle in the election’ despite repeatedly casting doubt on Russia probe

‘The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!’ the President tweeted

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Sunday 18 February 2018 18:11
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‘He (Putin) said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,’ said the President in November
‘He (Putin) said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,’ said the President in November

President Donald Trump has asserted he never said Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election, even though he has repeatedly cast doubt on the Kremlin’s interference in the race that propelled him into the presidency.

“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 President tweeted.

“The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” the President exclaimed, referring to his claim that investigations into alleged ties between Trump campaign advisers and the Kremlin were a “hoax” constructed by the Democrats to explain away their loss in 2016.

In November, Mr Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin had assured him on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that there was no interference by the Kremlin in the election.

“I asked him again,” Mr Trump told reporters. “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,” he added.

Mr Trump’s claim he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election” came amid a Sunday morning Twitter tirade in which he railed against former President Barack Obama, Democrats, CNN and others.

He directed some of his comments at Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee – one of multiple congressional panels conducting a probe into Russian interference in the election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

“Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter.

“He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!”

The tweet appears to be a reference to Mr Schiff’s recent comments to NBC News.

“We should have called them out much earlier,” Mr Schiff said, referring to Russia’s cyber campaign during the presidential campaign. “While I respect the motive in terms of the Obama administration, they didn’t want to be seen as meddling, the American people had a right to know what was going on and could be trusted to do the right thing with it. And they should have defended being more public and aggressive at the time, at least in my view.”

Last year, Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of homeland security under Mr Obama, said the Obama White House knew about the Russian election hacking – but it delayed saying anything.

“We were concerned that by making the statement we might, in and of itself, be challenging the integrity of the election process itself,” Mr Johnson testified to the House Intelligence Committee.

On Friday, a federal grand jury in Washington DC indicted 13 Russian nationals and a Kremlin-linked internet firm on charges that they meddled in the 2016 US presidential election.

The US government said Russian entities began interfering in US political processes as early as 2014, according to a court document. The Internet Research Agency allegedly served as a hub from which the defendants and other co-conspirators used social media to “sow discord in the US political system”.

“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the US then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams,” Mr Trump said in one of his Sunday tweets. “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!”

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