In a press conference Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump dismissed the entire story about his alleged dealings with Russia and about members of his campaign staff working closely with Russian intelligence, as reported by The New York Times.
“Russia is fake news,” Trump declared emphatically. “This is fake news put out by the media.”
While the president was not actually declaring that the country of Russia is all a fabricated construction of the media, he repeatedly denounced the media narrative surrounding that country as “Russia.”
“You can talk all you want about Russia, which is fake news — a fabricated deal to try to make up for the loss of the Democrats,” Trump declared. “Plus, press plays right into it.” Trump flatly denied any connection between himself or members of his campaign to the Eurasian country, dismissing the entire story as “fake news.”
“In fact, I saw a couple of the people who were supposedly involved with all of this, ” the president explained. “They know nothing about it: They weren’t in Russia, they never made a phone call to Russia, they never received a phone call. It’s all fake news. It’s all fake news.”
When it came to allegations that Trump had business dealings in the Eurasian country, he flatly denied those as well. “I own nothing in Russia, I have no loans in Russia, I don’t have any deals in Russia,” the president declared.
Here is the extent of his relationship with Russia: “President Putin called me up very nicely to congratulate me on the win of the election. He then called me up extremely nicely to congratulate me on the inauguration which was terrific, but so did many other leaders, almost all other leaders from almost all other countries.”
Rumors of a Trump-Russia connection trace back to the then-candidate’s second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who worked for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Indeed, when the “Panama Papers” leaked, it was discovered that $12.7 million in cash was allocated to Manafort from Ukraine’s pro-Putin Party of Regions.
While on the campaign trail, Trump also praised Putin’s strong leadership (something he did for the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as well). He repeated this line earlier this month, praising the Russian president while condemning America as not “innocent” of killing, like Putin.
Nevertheless, it remains unlikely that Russia either could or did throw the election to Trump in any meaningful sense.
The Russia line of attack resurfaced in earnest as news leaked that (now former) National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had a secret phone call with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, discussing the Obama administration’s sanctions on Russia. It was discovered that Flynn had misrepresented information to Vice President Mike Pence, and so he resigned his position.
In the press conference, Trump declared that “what [Flynn] did wasn’t wrong.” But “what was wrong was the way that other people, including yourselves [the media], in this room, were given that information, because that was classified information that was given illegally.”
On Wednesday, a U.S. intelligence official told NPR that there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the transcript of Flynn’s call with Kislyak. Wednesday night, CNN reported that the FBI would not be expected to file charges against the former national security advisor.
Trump’s outspoken declarations seem to be hyperbole — but the American people are likely to find out the truth in the coming weeks or months. I, for one, will be grabbing the popcorn as late night comedians have Alec Baldwin’s Trump take an eraser to a world map, and blot out from existence the largest country on Earth.