The current political rollercoaster that is the United States can often leave the country forgetting about one crisis as another emerges. Donald Trump's very first scandal — the alleged hacking of the presidential election — was revived this Sunday during an interview. Trump said China could be behind the election hack, raising new questions about his continued insistence that Russia wasn't at the center of the controversy.
In this week's episode of CBS' Face The Nation, Trump said that China could have been behind the hacks, but didn't directly accuse the country of trying to influence the U.S. election. "If you don't catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it's very hard to say who did the hacking," Trump said during the interview. "Could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups."
These aren't new claims, though they remain as perplexing as ever. According to Reuters, Trump first alleged in November that China could have been the perpetrator of key hacks that shaped the trajectory of the presidential election. The Democratic National Committee's data servers were allegedly hacked by Russian operatives, who may or may not have been directed by the Kremlin, with the purpose of swinging the election in Trump's favor. Russian president Vladimir Putin has strongly denied these allegations.
Despite the general consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking, Trump has generally refused to place the blame squarely on Russia's shoulders. Once, he did go so far as to say that Russia had some kind of role in hacking the election, but the comment was made through White House Chief of StaffReince Priebus and wasn't expounded upon by the president. "[Trump] accepts the fact that this particular case was entities in Russia, so that's not the issue," Priebus said on Fox News Sunday back in January.
These accusations against China are even more troubling now, given that the military superpower might be the United States' strongest ally in a potential fight against North Korea. The unpredictable nation is testing and threatening the use of nuclear weapons like never before, leading many U.S. officials to warn of impending military action. In any case, a strong relationship with China, North Korea's direct neighbor, is vital to maintaining peace in the region. The Chinese government has not yet responded to Trump's comments, but it's unlikely to go over well with President Xi Jinping, who just visited Trump earlier this month.
All of this is part of the larger question of whether Trump directly or by extension through his campaign enterprise colluded with Russia to intentionally influence the campaign, though Trump is insistent that he was not involved. The recent troubling revelations about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's business ties to Russia furthered the controversy last week. According to the Los Angeles Times, Flynn's attorney Robert Kelner said in a statement that Flynn told the Defense Intelligence Agency about his 2015 trip to Moscow, but didn't mention whether Flynn disclosed the fee he was offered by the Russian government television network RT.
Although the international political situation is rapidly developing past the issue of the potentially hacked election, with conflicts stirring in Syria and North Korea, solving the mystery of whether Trump was involved with the Russians and whether the Russians' were involved with the U.S. election remains vital. One of the central tenets of democracy is free and fair elections, which obviously isn't possible when another country is allegedly meddling with the outcome. The very sustenance of the United States may rest on getting to the bottom of the election hacks, and Trump's baseless accusations against China won't help to advance that goal.