Donald Trump has had a hard time stating definitively that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, even though 17 U.S. intelligence agencies said they did, and on Thursday he kept it going, saying Russia “could have” interfered but other countries probably did too. His comments came just 24 hours before he’s due to meet Vladimir Putin face-to-face.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, the U.S. president admitted he thought Russia was probably behind the hacking of the election last year, but he added that other countries were likely also involved. Since Trump assumed office in January, his presidency has been dogged by questions over his administration’s Russian connections, and he and his team have repeatedly dismissed any allegations of wrongdoing.
Asked at the Warsaw event by a reporter to definitively state that Russia interfered in the election, Trump responded, “I’ve said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia. I think it could well have been other countries. I won’t be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere.” He added: “Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.”
Trump is still vague on the issue six months after a U.S. intelligence report in January was definite, stating: “We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”
Trump also berated his predecessor for doing nothing about Russian meddling in the election even though he was made aware of it in August 2016. Trump claimed Obama failed to act because he thought Democrat Hillary Clinton would win the election.
“My big question is, why did Obama do nothing about it from August until November?” Trump said. “They say he choked. Well, I don’t think he choked. I think he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and he said: ‘Let’s not do anything about it.’”
Speaking with the Polish leader, the president said the U.S. government is working with Poland in the face of Russia’s “destabilizing behavior.” The comments come just 24 hours before Trump is scheduled to meet Putin for the first time on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg.
Trump has been given a warm welcome by President Duda, whose right-wing government shares many of the U.S. president’s world views – including on immigration and climate change. Later Thursday, Trump will address a crowd in front of the monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising on Warsaw’s historic Krasinski Square, where he ‘s expected to discuss the future of Western democracy.
“Because, as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on the means but also on the will of its people to prevail. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” Trump will say, according to excerpts of his speech published by the White House.