President Trump says he still isn't quite sure that Russia was behind — or solely behind — the hacking of the 2016 election. This is despite intelligence officials having said on numerous occasions that they have no doubt about that conclusion.
But it's how and where Trump aired his doubts Thursday that were really noteworthy. At a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, Trump said that he thought Russia was behind the hacking, but then he repeatedly qualified it by saying he couldn't be sure. He noted that the intelligence community has been wrong before and bashed the Iraq War. And he suggested that President Barack Obama deliberately didn't address Russia's hacking for political reasons. All of this was done with the world watching, on foreign soil.
Imagine if Duda came here and suggested Polish intelligence was flawed and unreliable, or if British Prime Minister Theresa May visited and talked about David Cameron's biggest failures as leader of that country. Trump basically did all of that Thursday.
As you can see, there was a lot to his three-minute answer on Russian hacking, so we're posting it in full below, with our annotations. To see an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.
TRUMP: Well I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered. I’ve said it very simply. I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries. And I won't be specific, but I think a lot of people interfere. I think it's been happening for a long time. It's been happening for many, many years. Now, the thing I have to mention is that Barack Obama, when he was president, found out about this in terms of if it were Russia — found out about it in August. Now the election was in November. That’s a lot of time. He did nothing about it. Why did he do nothing about it? He was told it was Russia by the CIA, as I understand it — it was well-reported — and he did nothing about it. They say he choked. Well, I don't think he choked. I think what happened is he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and he said let's not do anything about it. Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it. So he was told in early August, presumably by the CIA, that Russia was trying to get involved or meddling pretty strongly with the election. He did nothing about it. The reason is he thought Hillary was going to win. And if he thought I was going to win, he would have done plenty about it. So that’s the real question, is why did he do nothing from August all the way until November 8. Why did he do nothing? His people said he choked. I don’t think he choked. …
QUESTION: So the follow-up’s again for you on that, Mr. President. You again say you think it was Russia. Your intelligence agencies have been far more definitive; they say it was Russia. Why won’t you agree with them and say it was?
TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you — let me just start off by saying, I heard it was 17 agencies. I said, boy, that’s a lot. Do we even have that many intelligence agencies. Right? Let’s check it. And we did some very heavy research. It turned out to be three our four — it wasn’t 17 — and many of your compatriots had to change their reporting and they had to apologize and they had to correct. Now, with that being said, mistakes have been made. I agree: I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries, and I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure. I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq — weapons of mass destruction, how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong, and it led to a mess. So it was Russia, and I think it was probably others also. And that’s been going on for a long period of time. But my big question is why did Obama do nothing about it from August all the way to November 8. He did nothing about it, and it wasn’t because he choked.