President Donald Trump falsely claimed in an early Sunday morning Twitter post that he had never rejected the notion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,’” Trump wrote.
“The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!”
Trump is referring to comments he made during the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, 2016. But as The New York Times reported in a fact-check in June, Trump has also explicitly disagreed with the assessment of various intelligence agencies or cast doubt on Russia’s role in the vote. Here are eight examples, in chronological order.
June 2016: “It was the DNC that did the ‘hacking.’”
The Democratic National Committee said Russian hackers had obtained a trove of internal emails and opposition research. In response, Trump suggested that the DNC fabricated the story or did the hacking itself:
“We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader. Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Crooked Hillary’s 33,000 missing emails,” Trump said in a statement June 15, referring to Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
September 2016: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC.”
As the presidential nominees of their political parties, Trump and Clinton began receiving government intelligence reports in August. On Sept. 22, top Democrats on congressional intelligence committees issued a public statement blaming Russia, “based on briefings we have received.”
Four days later, during the first presidential debate, Trump declined to agree:
“I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?”
October 2016: “Maybe there is no hacking.”
On Oct. 7, the U.S. intelligence community released a statement saying it was “confident that the Russian government” directed the cyberattacks.
Two days later, Trump again expressed doubt during the second presidential debate that Russia was responsible:
“But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia.”
December 2016: “I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point.”
In an interview with Time magazine that December, Trump, then the president-elect, rejected the notion of Russian interference, even as he entertained the possibility but then suggested other culprits:
“I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Anytime I do something, they say, ‘Oh, Russia interfered.’ Why not get along with Russia? And they can help us fight ISIS, which is both costly in lives and costly in money. And they’re effective and smart. It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey. I believe that it could have been Russia and it could have been any one of many other people. Sources or even individuals.”
After reports from The Times and The Washington Post that the intelligence communities concluded that Russia acted to aid Trump in December, Trump again disagreed. “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn’t this brought up before election?” he wrote.
On Dec. 29, outgoing President Barack Obama issued sanctions against Russia and ejected 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives from the United States. Two days later, Trump said he still wasn’t convinced that Moscow had played a role in the vote:
“And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else,” he said to reporters in Palm Beach, Florida.
January 2017: “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyberinfrastructure of our governmental institutions.”
On Jan. 6, the intelligence community released a declassified report about Russia’s multifaceted attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. After being briefed on the full report that day, Trump pointed to “Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people.”
May: “If Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about it.”
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump spoke of Russian interference as a hypothetical possibility:
Trump: “If Russia hacked — if Russia did anything having to do with our election, I want to know about it.”
Holt: “Well, there’s already — there’s already intelligence from virtually every intelligence agency that yes, that happened.”
Trump: “I’ll tell you this. If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections, I think it’s a horrible thing and I want to get to the bottom of it. And I want to make sure it will never, ever happen.”
July: “Somebody did say if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. “
After meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia during a Group of 20 summit meeting, Trump said in an interview:
“First question — first 20, 25 minutes — I said, ‘Did you do it?’ He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not.’
“Somebody did say if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.”
November: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’”
During a trip to Asia, Trump met privately with Putin and told reporters he believed Putin’s sincerity as he continued to cast doubt on the FBI’s handling of hacked emails. He also criticized Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, and described John Brennan, the former CIA director, and intelligence officials as “political hacks.”
Of his meeting with the Russian leader, Trump said:
“Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe — I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’”
“I think that he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. And then you look, and you look at what’s going on with Podesta, and you look at what’s going on with the server from the DNC and why didn’t the FBI take it, why did they leave it; why did a third party look at the server and not the FBI if you look at all of this stuff, and you say, what’s going on here?
“And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks.”