President Trump claimed Tuesday, without evidence, that the Kremlin will support Democrats in the November midterm election, debuting a new line on Russian interference as the uproar over his shifting stances on the issue enters its second week.
Trump made the claim in a late-morning tweet eight days after he held a joint news conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who acknowledged there that he had wanted Trump to win in 2016.
“I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election,” Trump said in his Tuesday tweet. “Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign and that the effort was specifically aimed at helping Trump win.
On July 16 in Helsinki, Putin said he had wanted Trump in the White House because he thought it would benefit U.S.-Russia relations.
“Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal,” Putin said when asked whether he had wanted Trump to win.
In a statement after that summit, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats reaffirmed the intelligence community’s findings and warned of Russia’s “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
Days later, a Microsoft executive said the company had discovered a spear-phishing campaign by Russian military intelligence targeting at least three candidates in this year’s campaigns.
Since defending Putin in Helsinki and publicly doubting the U.S. intelligence community’s findings, Trump has issued a stream of clarifications, corrections and conflicting statements that have prompted criticism from Democrats as well as members of his own party.
Asked by reporters Tuesday evening what evidence Trump has to back up his claim, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley cited no specific findings but pointed to the fact that Democrats are the minority party.
“They’re the party out of power, so when he tweeted that, that’s what he was looking at,” Gidley said.