PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
By CALVIN WOODWARD
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s Twitter cannon roared over the weekend as the latest turn in the Russia investigation seemingly placed him on the defensive. He denied he had ever absolved Russia of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, despite his plentiful record of voicing doubts on that question.
Resurrecting an old tale from the campaign, Trump also described a diplomatic transaction between the U.S. and Iran during the Obama years as a dark plot that should have been investigated by U.S. authorities. The transaction actually was money the U.S. owed to Iran from decades ago and one in a series of claims that were addressed by an international tribunal set up by both countries.
Trump’s rash of tweets followed an indictment released last Friday charging 13 Russians with running a massive social media trolling campaign and field operations in the U.S. aimed in part at helping him defeat his 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller provided the most concrete evidence yet of Russian attempts to subvert the election.
A look at some of Trump’s recent statements and how they stack up with the facts:
TRUMP: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said `it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer. ‘ The Russian `hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” – tweet Sunday.
THE FACTS: On multiple occasions Trump has challenged the veracity of the mounting evidence about Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. On Air Force One, during foreign travels in November, he was asked about a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin: “How did you bring up the issue of election meddling? Did you ask him a question?”
Trump replied: “He just – 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. But he says, `I didn’t do that.’ I think he’s very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth.”
And in September, he tweeted: “The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook,” referring to the discovery that Russian entities had posted ads on Facebook critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and supportive of him.
Mostly, he has equivocated on the question of Russian interference, speaking at times as if he believes it happened and other times as if he does not, even as lawmakers, intelligence officials and some of his own aides say there is no doubt Russia meddled. He’s been consistent only in denying that his team colluded with Russia.
TRUMP: “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. _ tweet Saturday.
THE FACTS: H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, would have had no basis to say Russia failed to impact the U.S.
election because that is an open question.
McMaster said the indictment provides “really incontrovertible” evidence of Russian malfeasance in the election. The indictment does not allege collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and does not assert that Russia’s deeds tipped the election in Trump’s favor. But Mueller’s investigation continues and nothing is ruled out.
Trump tweeted Friday about his conviction that Russia had no impact and Vice President Mike Pence said in an Axios interview days earlier that “it is the universal conclusion of our intelligence communities that none of those efforts had any impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.”
U.S. intelligence agencies, however, have reached no such conclusion.