What Could It Possibly Mean For Trump To Say He Believes Putin?

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said on Friday that a federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering with U.S. elections and political processes. USA TODAY

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump talk at the break of a leader's meeting at the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, Nov.11, 2017.(Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Krmel, EPA-EFE)

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For two years, Donald Trump — as both candidate and president — has frequently dismissed the notion of Russian meddling in U.S. elections as a "hoax" and even denigrated heads of U.S. intelligence agencies for suggesting otherwise.

At times he has also taken Russian President Vladimir Putin's word on the issue.

That view hit choppy waters this week with the FBI indictment of 13 Russian nationals for alleged cyber-meddling.

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, added a few waves as the highest ranking White House official to say flatly on Saturday that evidence of Russian election meddling "is now incontrovertible.”

More: McMaster: Russian meddling in U.S. elections is beyond dispute

More: Read Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russian nationals for election meddling

More: Takeaways from Mueller's indictment of Russian nationals who meddled in election

More: Meet the 13 Russians charged in Mueller probe

The president has not formally commented on the meddling aspect of the FBI's allegations, preferring to claim instead that they prove there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and show that the outcome of the election was not affected. The indictments took no position on either issue.

The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017

On Saturday, Trump continued to help the theme about the indictments not showing collusion but, in two tweets, did not address Russian wrongdoing or possible steps to counter it.

Still, Trump's reaction did not repeat his past "hoax" claims that stretch back two years.

In August 2017, at a rally in Huntington, W.V., Trump even mocked the notion of Russian meddling, calling the allegations as made-up to explain Hillary Clinton's loss in the presidential elections.

"The Russia story is a total fabrication," he said. "It is just an excuse for the greatest loss in the history of American politics. That's all it is." 

"Have you seen any Russians in West Virginia or Ohio or Pennsylvania?" he asked his audience to bursts of laughter. "Are there any Russians here tonight? Any Russians?" 

That jibe now looks especially problematic, given the indictments detailing how named Russian nationals allegedly traveled to the U.S. under false pretenses to carry out meddling schemes.

Over the years, Trump has also called Putin as a witness to bolster his "hoax" claims.

After meeting with the Russian president in July, Trump told Reuters that he asked the Russian leader outright whether Moscow had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

"I said, 'Did you do it?' He said, 'No, I did not, absolutely not.' I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, 'Absolutely not.'" 

He kept up the drumbeat in November, after the APEC meeting in Vietnam, when he again met briefly with the Kremlin leader. 

This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017

“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,” Trump said, the BBC reported.

“I think he is very insulted by it,” he added, “which is not a good thing for our country.”

After sharp blowback from those remarks, Trump clarified his position. "As to whether or not I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies. I believe in our ...  intelligence agencies," he said. "What he (Putin) believes, he believes," he added.

The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story - RUSSIA. Fake news!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017

During the election, Trump was particularly outspoken in questioning charges of Russian influence. In September, during the first debate with Clinton, he suggested that any number of people could be the culprit who stole emails from the Democratic National Committee.

"I don't know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC," he said. "She (Clinton) keeps saying 'Russia, Russia, Russia,' and maybe it was. It could be Russia but it could be China, could also be lots of other people. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

One month later, at the second debate, Trump appeared to double down in letting Russia off the hook, saying, "I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking."

"Maybe there is no hacking," he continued. "But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they're trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia."

Perhaps his most blunt comment, however, came in dismissing the 2016 views of then-director of the CIA John Brennan, then-director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr., and then-FBI director James Comey in concurring in a joint statement by the intelligence community in October 2016 that Russia was interfering in the election.

Trump, speaking in November 2017, suggested the trio were less trustworthy than Putin.

“I mean, give me a break — they’re political hacks,” he told reporters. “You have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar, and he’s proven to be a leaker, so you look at that.”

 

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/02/17/trumps-claims-russian-meddling-hoax-hit-choppy-waters-fbi-indictments/347931002/

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