The president has long maintained that he and his team are completely innocent when it comes to the question of whether or not they colluded with Russia in the latter’s efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
He tweeted a message to that effect following charges against his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime Manafort and Trump associate Rick Gates being unveiled; the charges against them stem from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump team, which uncovered a money laundering scheme involving Manafort and Gates.
He’s gone back and forth with his stance on the question of whether or not Russia even carried out the election meddling it’s accused of — and his most recently expressed stance is that they did not.
In connection to his most recent comments discrediting the allegations against Russia, Trump went after the past heads of the nation’s intelligence agencies, dismissing them as nothing more than “political hacks” for pushing the narrative of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that he has dismissed as false.
The CIA has now responded to Trump’s attacks, with a statement from Trump-appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo out asserting that he stands by the report produced in the beginning of this year alleging Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections. (Pompeo replaced John Brennan as CIA head.)
The agency’s statement reads:
‘The director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 intelligence community assessment entitled: ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.’ The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed.’
While aboard Air Force One in between two of his stops on his presently unfolding Asia-trip this week, Trump insisted to reporters that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin when he told him on the sidelines of an economic summit in Vietnam that his country did not meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump told reporters, speaking of Putin:
‘He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.’
He added, speaking of U.S. intelligence agencies’ continued insistence to the contrary of what Putin has allegedly told Trump:
‘I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks. So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them.’
Neither Trump’s allegations that former U.S. intelligence chiefs are in the wrong nor his allegations that Russia never meddled in U.S. politics are new.
He has wrongfully claimed in the past that FBI Director James Comey, who he fired earlier this year, “leaked” classified information when, after his departure from government, he gave media outlets copies of memos he’d written while on the job.
In fact, the information Comey gave to the media — consisting of allegations against the president of attempted obstruction of justice — was not classified.
Trump has also repeatedly called the scandal over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and his team’s possible part in that meddling a “hoax.”
Featured Image via Win McNamee/ Getty Images