After saying yesterday that he believed Vladimir Putin when he said that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump did a complete about-face and said he backs his intelligence agencies that claim that Putin interfered in the race.
During a press gaggle on Air Force One yesterday, 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.”
But Trump, as is his wont when his words set off a firestorm, changed his tune at a news conference in Hanoi.
One day after criticizing past leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies as “political hacks,” President Donald Trump clarified Sunday that he stands behind the agencies’ current leadership.
At a news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, as he continues his 13-day Asia trip, Trump also said that he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin believes it when he says Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
But Trump made clear that he sides with U.S. intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Russia did meddle in the election.
“I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said of Putin at the joint news conference with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang.
“As to whether I believe it, I’m with our agencies,” the president added. “As currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”
Yesterday he said he didn’t believe it. Today he says he does. Yesterday he called the leaders of our intelligence agencies “hacks.” Today he calls them “fine people.”
You can get whiplash trying to keep track of Trump’s incoherence.
Senator McCain summed it up perfectly:
“There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community,” McCain wrote, referring to Putin’s former career in Soviet intelligence. “Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart.”
Putin is quoted as once saying that the fall of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” How can anyone who isn’t completely naive believe someone who said that?
I don’t think Trump believes Putin’s denials. But he has so much invested in improving relations with Russia that he’d just as soon forget about their election meddling and develop the partnership he so much desires.
Trump sees Russia’s interference as ancient history. I suspect many Republicans and Trump supporters agree. But if we’re not going to acknowledge the massive Russian effort to hack email accounts and state computer servers in 2016, why wouldn’t Putin try the same thing in 2020?