Two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was given 'highly classified' intelligence that proved Putin ordered cyberattacks to interfere with the U.S. elections.
Trump shocked the world this week by defying his own intelligence agencies and defending Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Trump said he didn't "see any reason" to doubt Putin's "strong and powerful" denials that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections.
Now, a bombshell report from the New York Times shows that he had plenty of reasons to doubt Putin's story. He was informed two weeks before his inauguration that Putin personally ordered cyberattacks to sway the U.S. election.
On Jan. 6, 2017, Trump was given "highly classified" intelligence that proved Putin ordered the attacks, the Times reports, including texts and emails from Russian military officers and information from "a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin."
Trump was shown the information and personally briefed by now-former CIA Director John Brennan (who called his remarks with Putin this week "treasonous"), as well as then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (who confirmed the Times story on the record Thursday) and Admiral Michael Rogers, who was the director of the National Security Agency.
But in the face of all this evidence, the best Trump could do was sound "grudgingly convinced."
And in the 18 months since then, "grudgingly convinced" has been the best Trump could offer the American people and the world in his public statements about Putin and Russian interference.
The blowback against Trump this week has been intense enough that he has tried to backtrack. But it hasn't worked, because that's how blatant and consistent his support of Putin has been and continues to be.
Trump's praise of Putin and refusal to support U.S. intelligence in Helsinki on Monday was so obvious, he had to resort to a pathetic, literally unbelievable claim that he really meant the exact opposite of what he said.
And after all that, Trump got in trouble again the next day when he denied that Russia was still targeting U.S. elections — even though the U.S. intelligence community has emphatically concluded that these sabotage attempts are ongoing.
On Thursday, Trump made one more pathetic attempt to claim that he's really been recognizing Russian meddling all along. He tweeted out a clip from Fox News that supposedly shows a super-cut of all the times he has said Russia hacked us.
The clip is an epic self-own. Every single example minimizes Russia's involvement by quickly pivoting to claims that "other people" and "other countries" probably hacked the U.S.
“Trump recognized Russian Meddling MANY TIMES” pic.twitter.com/T8MERS93wI
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
The point isn't whether he has ever said he thinks Russia did it. The point is how often he turns around and says he doesn't — which is much, much more often.
Ever since he took office, Trump has consistently and repeatedly praised Putin and Russia, disparaged U.S. allies, and cast doubts on U.S. intelligence — even going so far as to declare the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller "illegal."
In fact, Trump's first face-to-face meeting with Putin a year ago in Germany had some disturbing similarities to their explosive meeting in Helsinki.
Then, as now, Trump met behind closed doors with Putin for two hours, and nobody knew what they discussed. Then, as now, he lavished praise on Putin.
And then, as now, he reportedly undermined U.S. intelligence to Putin's face by downplaying the importance of Russia's election interference.
The only difference is that this time, he did it in front of the cameras for all the world to see.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.