On Tuesday, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer what should have been an easy question: Does the president believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?
Spicer demurred: “I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.” That answer was incredible, in both the literal and figurative senses. It was hard to believe that Spicer hadn’t discussed that topic with President Trump, and hard to believe that Trump would still be denying the now-universal view of intelligence agencies and lawmakers in both parties. In fact, Trump had acknowledged as much on January 11, at his first and only post-election press conference.
But in a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump validated Spicer’s reluctance, indicating that he has changed his mind, no longer believes there was Russian interference, and sees the whole thing as a “a big Dem HOAX!”
Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn't they stop them?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
...Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It's all a big Dem HOAX!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
...Why did the DNC REFUSE to turn over its Server to the FBI, and still hasn't? It's all a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
Since Trump has not explained, and since his communications staff cannot or will not speak to his position, it’s unclear when and why he changed his mind since the January 11. But his flip-flop once again puts the president at odds with his intelligence agencies as well as most Republicans in Congress, who have concluded that Russia did interfere with the election, although there is disagreement about the impact that interference had on the result of the election. Trump seems to see any concession of Russian interference as necessarily undermining the legitimacy of his election—coincidentally, the same view that many Democrats hold, even as the GOP argues both that Trump is legitimate and that interference is worrisome.