Trump still unconvinced of 2016 Russian election meddling

At the same time as his intelligence chiefs unanimously instructed a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to take action once more in 2018, three sources conversant in the President’s pondering say he stays unconvinced that Russia interfered within the presidential election.

Whereas this difficulty is separate from the query of whether or not Trump marketing campaign officers colluded with Russian officers, to Trump the problems are interwoven, the sources say. He views the notion that Russia meddled within the election as an argument that he had assist to win, and that he did not win the election on his personal.

Trump’s view contradicts his intelligence chiefs, together with Director of Nationwide Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and FBI Director Chris Wray, who all testified — once more — on Tuesday that they supported the intelligence group’s January 2017 evaluation that Russia interfered within the 2016 election.

“There must be little doubt that Russia perceives its previous efforts as profitable and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a possible goal for Russian affect operations,” Coats mentioned on the Senate Intelligence Committee listening to on worldwide threats.

Trump has been skeptical in regards to the intelligence evaluation that Russia meddled ever since he was first briefed on the difficulty through the presidential transition. However that skepticism has endured even after Trump hand-selected his personal intel chiefs they usually reiterated the conclusions of their predecessors.

Trump has solely begrudgingly acknowledged that Russia might have interfered within the election. In a press convention as president-elect, Trump mentioned, “So far as hacking, I feel it was Russia. However I feel we additionally get hacked by different international locations and different individuals.” At a June 2017 press convention in Poland, he once more mentioned Russia meddled within the election, however added that “different individuals and different international locations” doubtless did as effectively.

Extra typically, Trump has forged doubt on accusations of Russian meddling. He has questioned whether or not the Russians have been accountable for hacking the Democratic Nationwide Committee, and he has referred to as your complete “Russia story” a hoax perpetuated by indignant Democrats. He even satisfied Pompeo to personally meet with a conspiracy theorist who denies that Russia hacked the DNC.
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Trump induced a stir throughout his journey to Asia when he prompt that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that his authorities meddled within the election. Trump and Putin met a number of instances on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam. “Each time he sees me, he says, ‘I did not do this,'” Trump mentioned. “And I imagine, I actually imagine, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
However members of Trump’s cupboard have bucked Trump and sided with the intelligence group together with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who mentioned in October: “When a rustic can come intrude out of the country’s elections, that’s warfare.”

Tuesday’s listening to was the newest alternative for Democrats to pounce on the conflicting messages coming from the intelligence chiefs and their commander in chief. Maine Sen. Angus King, an impartial who caucuses with Democrats, urged the intelligence officers to persuade Trump that the difficulty of collusion was separate from election meddling.

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“I perceive the President’s sensitivity about whether or not his marketing campaign was in connections with the Russians, and that is a separate query. However there isn’t any query — we have got earlier than us your complete intelligence group, that the Russians interfered within the election in 2016 — they’re persevering with to do it, they usually’re an actual imminent menace to our elections in a matter of eight or 9 months,” King mentioned.

“My drawback is I speak to individuals in Maine who say the entire thing is a witch hunt and a hoax as a result of ‘the President instructed me’,” he added.

Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, requested whether or not the steps the intelligence group was taking to counteract Russia’s election interference efforts had been directed by Trump.

“Not particularly directed by the President,” Wray mentioned.

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