By Lauren Rearick
In an early morning tweet published on Thursday, May 30, President Donald Trump appeared to finally admit that Russian interference in the 2016 election helped him secure a presidential victory over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
One day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller held a press conference detailing the conclusion of his investigation into the scope of Russian operatives’s influence on the 2016 election, President Trump claimed the investigation was “the greatest presidential harassment in history.”
Notably, at Mueller’s first, last, and only press conference as special counsel, he left no part of his report up for interpretation: “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” he said, adding that the Justice Department prohibits a sitting president from being charged with a crime. “The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.”
So perhaps as a smokescreen to distract from Mueller’s statements about whether the president did or did not commit a crime (or perhaps simply because he seemingly can’t help his Twitter habit), Trump went on to offer his long-overdue confirmation of Russian interference. “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax...And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist,” he tweeted.
One hour later, Trump went back on his tweet and told reporters, “No, Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side." Per CNN, the Department of Homeland Security, the office of National Intelligence, and the CIA have confirmed that hackers, authorized by the Russian government, carried out an “influence campaign to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
President Trump has consistently, and incorrectly, denied the proven fact of Russian hackers’ influence with regard to the 2016 election. As part of their efforts, hackers used platforms including Facebook and Twitter to pose as Trump supporters, and share advertisements and misinformation regarding Clinton’s campaign. Based on findings from the office of National Intelligence, it was determined that the “Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.” Over the course of Mueller’s two-year investigation, 13 Russians and three Russian companies were charged with attempting to influence the 2016 election, the Daily Beast reported.
Even after his own intelligence agencies have confirmed Russian influence, Trump continued expressing denial. In a July 2018 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump called Putin’s denials of wrongdoing “very strong,” and said, “I have President Putin [sic], he just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be”; one day later, Trump gaslit the American people with a patent denial of his own, on-the-record comments, insisting he meant to say wouldn’t instead of would.
For his part, Mueller isn’t backing down on the information his team found and provided in their report. “There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference. “That allegation deserves the attention of every American.”