President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared himself “very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election.”
The acknowledgement that Moscow is poised to meddle in its second consecutive U.S. national election is perhaps Trump’s clearest statement yet that he agrees with American intelligence agencies about Russia’s intent to upend his country’s democratic process. Just last week, he told reporters that other parties likely were involved in the 2016 election meddling.
He again claimed to have been “tougher” on Moscow than previous presidents. Because of that contention, which ignored the entire Cold War era, Trump tweeted his assessment that the Kremlin will be “pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”
I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2018
But Putin last week, while standing beside Trump in Finland, said he wanted a Trump win in 2016 because he campaigned on warming relations.
The Russian strongman was asked if he wanted Trump to defeat Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton two years ago and whether he directed his government to assist the former reality television host and real estate mogul in doing just that.
“Yes, I did. Yes, I did,” Putin said. “Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
Since Trump’s election and the start of the Justice Department’s special counsel probe into Russia's 2016 interference, however, Republicans have given Trump cover. They also have been much more restrained in criticizing Moscow, echoing Trump for months that better U.S.-Russian relations would be a positive development.
Some members of both parties reacted to the Trump-Putin summit by criticizing the U.S. leader for appearing to side with the Russian president on meddling over his own intel agencies. Trump has since tried walking back his Helsinki remarks, though lawmakers remain concerned — but not concerned enough to have voted on anything more than a nonbinding Senate resolution condemning Russia’s actions.
Watch: Next to Putin, Trump Defies U.S. Intel on Russian Election Interference