President Donald Trump on Thursday denied that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election to help him win the White House, directly contradicting his own words less than an hour earlier.
“Russia did not help get me elected,” Trump said, in a rambling interview on the south lawn of the White House. “You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia if anything helped other side.”
“Look at collusion between Hillary Clinton and Russia,” he added. “She had more to do with the campaign with Russia than I did. I had nothing to do [with them].”
He also seemed to suggest that everything having to do with Russia “was all a hoax,” echoing past occasions when he has denied that Russia ever interfered with the 2016 election.
U.S. intelligence officials widely accept and acknowledge that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Russia’s extensive interference efforts were also outlined in detail by special counsel Robert Mueller, in his final report following a two-year investigation into the matter.
Trump’s remarks were a direct reversal from comments he made in a tweet earlier Thursday morning, in which he claimed he had “nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”
“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…” he wrote on Twitter. “And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist.”
Trump deleted an initial version of that tweet with that same language, because it contained a typo.
Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist. So now the Dems and their partner, the Fake News Media,…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2019
After a reporter called out Trump on the contradiction Thursday morning, noting that the Mueller investigation specifically found Russia had tried to help him and hurt Clinton, Trump doubled down. “I believe Russia would rather have Hillary Clinton as president of the United States than Donald Trump,” he said. “The reason is, nobody has been tougher on Russia than me.”
The Trump administration has in fact been notoriously lax about ensuring sanctions against Russia are enforced.
Trump has long claimed that Russia did not interfere with the 2016 election, ignoring the unequivocal findings of U.S. intelligence community and the special counsel’s office. During the 2018 Helsinki summit, Trump infamously said that he believed Russia President Vladimir Putin when he denied Russia’s involvement.
Experts say Trump is also doing very little to actually counter interference in the upcoming 2020 election, with one former FBI agent even suggesting Trump has given Putin the “green light” to interfere again by maintaining such a cozy relationship with the Russian president.