Just weeks before his back-to-back summits with NATO members in Belgium and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, President Trump is legitimizing Russia’s claim that it did not interfere in the 2016 election, contradicting the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning, before launching a diatribe against former FBI Director James Comey and his “disgraced” agents. “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”
The outburst is the latest instance of Trump effectively shunning the conclusions of U.S. intelligence and national-security officials, who in a 2016 report determined that “Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” while bolstering Moscow’s denials. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating whether the Trump campaign aided that operation, and whether the president attempted to obstruct the inquiry into Moscow’s interference.
The timing of the president’s tweet makes it even more significant: The remark came amid increasing anxiety about next month’s NATO summit in Brussels, which will be immediately followed by Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki. NATO was founded in 1949 as Europe’s answer to the Soviet Union, and the 28-member alliance continues to serve largely as a counterweight to Russia’s ambitions in Eastern Europe. Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, and Poland currently hosts U.S. armed forces and NATO units who move between Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in an effort to deter Russian aggression.