Trump holds Putin responsible for ‘meddling’ because ‘he’s in charge’ of Russia – interview
US President Donald Trump believes Vladimir Putin should be held responsible for alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election after all - since he is the president of Russia, Trump told CBS.
The network teased a quote from Trump ahead of airing his interview with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor, which was broadcast at 6:30 pm Eastern Time on Wednesday. In it, Glor asks Trump if he would hold Putin personally culpable for the alleged election interference.
Trump said yes, although he apparently stopped short of actually blaming Putin for personally ordering an influence op, the way his opponents tend to.
“I would because he's in charge of the country just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country," Trump said. "So certainly as the leader of the country you would have to hold him responsible.”
He also said he warned Putin against future meddling during their summit in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.
"I let him know we can't have this. We're not going to have it. And that's the way it's going to be," Trump said.
Mainstream US media, Democratic politicians and not a few never-Trump Republicans joined in a chorus of condemnations after Trump did not use the press conference following the summit to publicly attack Putin the way they thought he should have.
The US president was accused of “siding with the KGB over the CIA” and betraying American democracy by not taking the assessment of US intelligence agencies at face value, rather than appearing to give equal weight to Putin’s “powerful” insistence that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election.
Facing the onslaught of criticism, Trump sought to clarify his remarks by telling reporters that when he said he saw no reason why Russia “would” interfere, he meant to say he saw no reason why it “wouldn’t” be Russia, which led to another media frenzy.
Full faith in new spies, not old ones
In the CBS interview, Trump praised his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA chief Gina Haspel as “excellent” people. Asked if the intelligence agencies were out to get him, Trump said he had “full confidence” in the new leadership.
Coats, whom Trump called “a great patriot [who] loves this country,” has publicly endorsed the previous administration’s “intelligence community assessment” (ICA) published in January 2017, that accused Russia of using unspecified “active measures” to influence the election.
Trump singled out the intelligence leadership of the past administration, naming former CIA directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden, former DNI James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe, to say he “can’t have any confidence in the past” conduct of intelligence agencies, however.
Clapper set up the task force that composed the ICA. Comey and Brennan were also involved, as well as NSA chief Admiral Mike Rogers, whom Trump did not bring up.
On Monday, Brennan said Trump’s conduct at the press conference was “nothing short of treasonous.” The president replied by describing him as a “total lowlife.”
Comey tweeted on Tuesday that “All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall.”
Clapper famously said last year that Russians are “typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.”
Trump also singled out FBI agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page, whose anti-Trump texts got them removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team last year. Mueller was appointed after Comey’s firing in May 2017, to pursue the claim that Trump’s campaign somehow “colluded” with Russia during the 2016 campaign. No evidence of such collusion has been presented since.
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