President Trump went to extraordinary lengths in a new sit-down interview with anti-LGBT TV preacher Pat Robertson to raise doubts about the unanimous conclusion from U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia carried out a comprehensive cyberattack to upend the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an operation that was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the January report said.
“Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations,” the report continued.
The report said Moscow used a variety of tactics in a bid to sway the outcome.
“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations — such as cyberactivity — with overt efforts by Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’ ” the report found.
Trump completely dismissed his own intelligence agencies’ report in the new interview, falsely claiming that he thinks Putin would actually have been happier with Hillary Clinton in the White House because he’s building the U.S. military and working to export U.S. energy, which Russia opposes.
“We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person,” Trump told Robertson. “As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated. Our energy would be much more expensive. That’s what Putin doesn’t like about me. And that’s why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military, he doesn’t want to see that,” Trump told Robertson.
“And from day one I want fracking and everything else to get energy prices low and to create tremendous energy. We’re going to be self-supporting, we just about are now. We’re going to be exporting energy – he doesn’t want that. He would like Hillary where she wants to have windmills. He would much rather have that because energy prices would go up and Russia as you know relies very much on energy,” he continued.
“So there are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he would want. So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think ‘probably not,’ because when I want a strong military, you know she wouldn’t have spent the money on military,” he said. “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.”
As NBC News’ Steve Benen writes, “Did Russian officials attack? Yes. Did they intervene to help put Donald Trump in power? Yes. Was Trump’s campaign in communications with Russia during the espionage operation? Yes. Was Trump’s campaign willing and eager to cooperate with Russia’s scheme? Yes. Will the president or anyone in his operation face any consequences? Stay tuned.”