President Trump can’t escape his political troubles by going overseas — but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to try to anyway.
He’s presently overseas, touring Asia to both promote U.S. economic interests and to attempt to bolster the West’s defense against North Korea in the face of the dictatorship’s ever-growing nuclear arsenal.
He’s spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin three times on the sidelines of an economic summit taking place towards the end of his time overseas, and CNN now reports that the president insists that he believes Putin’s denials of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In connection to his stated acceptance of Putin’s denials of election meddling, Trump slammed former U.S. intelligence and security chiefs as “political hacks.”
He told reporters aboard Air Force One:
‘I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks. So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them.’
Trump alleges that former FBI Director James Comey lied during his testimony to Congress earlier this year; however, there remains no indication that he did so. Comey testified about efforts by President Trump to obstruct the Russia investigation.
The president fired Comey, intensifying the allegations against him of obstruction of justice, since Comey was leading the Russia investigation at the time of his firing.
Trump claims that Comey is a “leaker” because of the former FBI Director’s decision to send some of his on-the-job memos to news media following his firing.
Those memos are not classified; Comey had full right to share them with whoever he wished.
As for former CIA Director John Brennan, included in Trump’s attacks, CNN’s Jake Tapper posted a response from the agency on Twitter.
That response says, in part, that the “Director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment entitled: Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.”
Trump indicated that he prioritizes “the potential to have a very, very good relationship” with Russian President Vladimir Putin above respect for our own nation’s intelligence agencies, telling reporters:
‘There was no collusion. Everybody knows there was no collusion. I think it’s a shame that something like that could destroy a very important potential relationship between two countries that are really important countries.’
Trump added that he feels Putin is “very insulted” by the repeated assertion that he meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
This is far from the first time that Trump has attacked the legitimacy of concerns over Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
As he also did while speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump has long insisted that the entire Russia scandal is nothing more than a “hoax” pulled out of thin air by the Democrats.
Trump has good reason to downplay the significance of Russian election meddling — as a consequence of the Russia investigation, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, longtime Manafort and Trump associate Rick Gates, and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos were all revealed recently to be facing charges. (Papadopoulos pleaded guilty.)