Trump supports Russian President over Moscow’s influence operations in 2016 election

Developments on Day 296 of the Trump Administration:

Trump: “I Really Believe Putin Means It”

In a series of statements and tweets, Donald Trump expresses his belief in Russian President Vladimir Putin and dismisses US intelligence services over Russia’s intervention in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Trump told reporters after briefly meeting Putin in Vietnam on Saturday, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit:

He said he didn’t meddle — I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.

US intelligence agencies concluded early this year that Russia had carried out influence operations over Trump’s campaign against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, including the hacking of e-mails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s chief of staff, the dissemination of the stolen information,and a sustained propaganda effort. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, and both House and Senate committees are considering hte matter.

But Trump said yesterday that it was time to put the issue aside so the US and Russia could cooperate on matters such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the Syrian conflict, and Ukraine, where Moscow has annexed Crimea and encouraged separatist movements in the east of the country:

Having a good relationship with Russia is a great, great thing. This artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way, and that’s a shame, because people will die.

He added that Putin was “very insulted by [the question of election interference], which is not a good thing for our country”.

Trump’s comments endorsed Putin’s line before the meeting, with the Russian President declaring, “Everything about the so-called Russian dossier in the US is a manifestation of continuing domestic political struggle.”

After the meeting, Putin insisted that he knew “absolutely nothing” about Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials, and said reports — based on the guilty plea of Trump advisor George Papadopoulos, who set out his efforts to arrange a Trump-Putin meeting — that Papadopoulos met with Russian-linked contacts “bollocks”.

“They can do what they want, looking for some sensation,” Putin said. “But there are no sensations.”

But the CIA effectively rejected Trump’s remarks in a statement that Director Mike Pompeo “stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community assessment…with regard to Russian election meddling.”

It empahsized that the position “has not changed”.

Trump on Former Top US Intelligence Officials: “Political Hacks”

In a later statement, Trump lashed out at former heads of US intelligence who have confirmed the Russian influence operations:

I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks….I mean, you have [former CIA Director John] Brennan, you have [former Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper and you have [former FBI Director James] Comey….So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them.

The remarks echoed Trump’s attempts in January, before his inauguration, to dismiss the findings of US intelligence agencies as fraudulent and politically motivated.

On Sunday, after a heated response from legislators in Washington, Trump walked back his latest comments a bit. He said at a news conference in Hanoi alongside Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang.

I believe in our agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly….

What I said is that I believe [Putin] believes that As to whether I believe it or not. I’m with our [intelligence] agencies, especially as currently constituted.

I want to be able…to get along with Russia I’m not looking to stand and argue with somebody when there are reporters standing all around.

But on Twitter, Trump appeared agitated over the pushback against his embrace of Putin:

Former Director of National Intelligence Clapper commented:

The president was given clear and indisputable evidence that Russia interfered in the election. His own DNI and CIA director have confirmed the finding in the intelligence community assessment. The fact that he would take Putin at his word over the intelligence community is unconscionable.

Comey: “If You Want A Lie to Go Round the World, It Will Fly”

Coincidentally, former FBI director James Comey — fired by Trump in May in an attempt to curb the Trump-Russia investigation — offered this remark on Twitter on Saturday:

Trump Upset That North Korea Called Him “Old”

Donald Trump is upset that North Korean State media called him “old”.

Trump turned to Twitter to vent his feelings:

Trump appears to have been triggered by the circulation of a November 6 story that North Korean outlets, reacting to Trump’s visit to Japan during his 12-day Asian tour, said he was a “lunatic old man” who may “start nuclear war”.

A CNN White House correspondent marvelled:

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