July 10, 2017

Trump Lies About Russia Hacking

On the eve of his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump made some questionable claims about the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia hacked into U.S. political organizations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election:
  • Trump said the computer hacking “could have been other people and other countries.” There is no evidence for that. U.S. intelligence has named only Russia as the culprit. A Jan. 6 report based on the work of three intelligence agencies said Putin “ordered” a broad “influence campaign” to help elect Trump.
  • Trump claimed former President Barack Obama “did nothing” from August to Nov. 8 about Russia meddling in the election. That’s wrong. Among other things, Obama spoke to Putin about the issue in September, and his administration worked with state officials from mid-August until Election Day to prevent voting systems from being hacked.
The president made his remarks during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on July 6. Trump made the stop in Poland on his way to a Group of 20 summit meeting in Germany, where he is scheduled to meet with Putin on July 7.

‘Other Countries’?

Hallie Jackson of NBC News asked the president if he would “once and for all, yes or no, definitively say that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.” He gave a less-than-definitive answer.
Trump, July 6: I think it was Russia. And I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered. I’ve said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia but I think it could very well have been other countries, and I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere. I think it has been happening for a long time. It has been happening for many, many years.
There is no evidence that other countries were involved in the cyberattacks.
The Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on Oct. 7, 2016, that said the U.S. intelligence community is “confident” that hacks into the email systems of the Democratic Party and its officials were directed by “Russia’s senior most officials.” The U.S. intelligence community includes 17 separate intelligence agencies.
“Such activity is not new to Moscow — the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there,” the statement said. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
After the election, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a declassified report on Jan. 6 that went even further. That report said that “Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and that “Putin ordered an influence campaign” to help Trump and damage his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The 25-page report was “drafted and coordinated” among three intelligence agencies — the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency — based on “intelligence information collected and disseminated by those three agencies.”
Among other things, the report said, Russian military intelligence gained access to Democratic National Committee computers from July 2015 to June 2016 and then used WikiLeaks, DCLeaks.com and “Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be an independent Romanian hacker,” to publicly release hacked emails and documents. The cyberattacks and public release of hacked material were part of larger “Russian propaganda efforts” to hurt Clinton and help Trump, the report said.
“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine — comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls — contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences,” the report said. “State-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”
In sworn testimony before the Senate intelligence committee on June 8, former FBI Director James Comey said there should be no confusion that Russia interfered with the election.
Comey, June 8: There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. It was an active measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that. It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community and the members of this committee have seen the intelligence. It’s not a close call. That happened. That’s about as unfake as you can possibly get. It is very, very serious, which is why it’s so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that. This is about America, not about a particular party.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that Trump has questioned U.S. intelligence on Russia. He did so before and after winning the election, sometimes in the same way as he did at his Warsaw press conference.
After the election, Trump issued a statement on Dec. 9 that compared U.S. intelligence on Russia’s election meddling to U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. At his press conference in Poland, Trump again raised the issue of WMDs. He said “everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” but faulty intelligence “led to one big mess.”
And, as he did in Poland, Trump told Time magazine in a Nov. 28, 2016, interview: “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
But no evidence to date has emerged that China or any other country was involved.
Update, July 7: Two House members – a Republican and a Democrat – said they have seen no evidence that any country other than Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
CNN’s John Berman asked Rep. Jim Himes in a July 6 interview: “[H]ave you seen any evidence that any other country besides Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 election?” Himes, a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, responded, “None. None.”
Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said in a July 7 interview on MSNBC that the intelligence reports and briefings that he has received show “very clear and convincing evidence that it was a nation state attack by Russia.”
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Donald Trump
President of the United States

Claimed the computer hacking of U.S. political organizations during the 2016 presidential election “could have been other people and other countries.” 

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