One of the reasons the intelligence community concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election is because Russians “developed a clear preference” that Donald Trump should win the presidency.
But at rallies, during interviews and on social media, Trump repeatedly dismissed the suggestion that the Russian government supported his presidential aspirations.
During a 2017 interview on the Christian Broadcast Network, Trump told televangelist Pat Robertson that he didn't believe those who claimed that Russia interfered in the election in part because they wanted Trump to win. He said:
So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think “probably not,” because when I want a strong military, when I want tremendous energy — we’re opening up coal, we’re opening up natural gas, we’re opening up fracking, all the things that he would hate — but nobody ever mentions that.
One person who hasn't mentioned those things is Vladimir Putin himself. And that may be because it appears to directly conflict his truth.
REPORTER: “Did you want President Trump to win the election? And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?”
PUTIN: “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
Putin didn't respond to the second part of the reporter's question, and Trump did not respond to Putin's admission that he did in fact want Trump to win. It is not clear whether the U.S. president believes Putin.
But what is clear is that Trump wants to believe Putin when he says that Russians did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election, an act the U.S. intelligence community argues did happen, and happened in part because of Russia's desire to see Trump win.
“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.”
Given Trump's track record when it comes to Putin, it would be understandable to conclude that Trump would start believing Putin's side of things. But then again, that would require Trump to admit that he was wrong. And Trump does not have a history of acknowledging when he has shared inaccurate information.