Despite U.S. intelligence reports that Russia ordered an operation to interfere in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump appeared to challenge that during a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Ahead of the G20 summit on Thursday, when asked about the intelligence community's assessment of possible election interference, Trump said Russia could have interfered, "but no one really knows."
The president expanded on his thoughts, but it left some questioning his stance. "I think it very well could be Russia but I think it could very well have been other countries," he said, and added, without offering evidence. "I think a lot of people interfere."
Trump did not name other countries that could have possibly interfered.
When reporters brought up the fact that the U.S. intelligence community believes that Russia did interfere, Trump said, "I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and or countries. I see nothing wrong with that statement. No one really knows. No one really knows for sure."
In January, the FBI, CIA, and NSA released a report asserting that Russian President Vladimir Putin had aided Trump in the election. According to the report, Russia's goal was to undermine the U.S. democratic process and discredit former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton via Russian media, social media, and other cyber activity.
In June, former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee, telling them that he had no doubt whatsoever that Russia hacked the U.S. election.
At the news conference, Trump also reasoned that the U.S. has been wrong about intelligence before, saying,
I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, how everybody was 100 percent certain that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess.
He also criticized former President Barack Obama for his handling of intelligence supposedly suggesting that Russia was meddling in the election long before Nov. 8. “He did nothing about it,” Trump said. “The reason is, he thought Hillary was going to win. Why did he do nothing from August all the way to Nov. 8? His people said he choked. I don’t think he choked.”
While the Obama administration learned of Russian hacking during the election, Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security secretary, testified that the administration decided not to acknowledge it during the election because they were worried about accusations of taking a side as well as revealing too much about the intelligence-gathering process.
This isn't the first time that Trump appeared hesitant to place responsibility on Russia for the hacking. He previously suggested it could have been China who hacked the DNC, or even a 400-pound person sitting at home. Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.