Aug 1, 2019

Trump on Russian interference: "You don't really believe this, do you?"

Speaking to reporters before departing for his rally on Thursday, President Trump said he did not bring up the topic of Russian interference in his phone call with President Vladimir Putin, again casting aspersion on the warnings of the U.S. intelligence community.

REPORTER: Mr. President, Robert Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in the U.S. elections right now. Is that --
TRUMP: "Oh you don't really believe this. Do you believe this? Ok, fine. We didn't talk about it. I spoke with President Putin of Russia yesterday. They are having massive fires in their forest. I've never seen anything like it. I just offered our assistance because we are very good at putting out forest fires frankly. If they should need it, I offered our assistance. We had a good talk, a short talk but a good talk, and I think he appreciated it."

Why it matters: The few moments in which special counsel Robert Mueller drifted from "yes," "no" or non-answers at last week's hearings were to explicitly warn lawmakers that Russia is continuing its election interference activities "as we sit here." Mueller's warning is also the consensus of the current U.S. intelligence community — including Trump's hand-picked FBI Director Christopher Wray, who testified earlier this month: "My view is until they stop, they haven’t been deterred enough."

  • And yet, President Trump continues to downplay concerns that Russia will insert itself into the 2020 presidential election, viewing Mueller's warnings through the lens of the "collusion" allegations that have dogged his presidency for the last two years.

Go deeper: Senate Intel releases 1st volume of report on 2016 Russian interference

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Russian interference, 2020

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans are at each other's throats. Politically, socially and culturally, we suspect each other's motives and plain sanity. So certain are we of the other's intent to do the nation harm, some of us have joined political gangs and assaulted one another, resulting in at least 1 death.

Which is to say: Americans have played into Russian President Vladimir Putin's hands — again. It is assumed he can attack next year's elections if he so chooses, but since no outsider knows exactly how, what comes next is one of the great underlying mystery-dramas of the 2020 election campaign.

Go deeperArrowAug 22, 2019 - World

Trump says Russia is out of G7 because "Putin outsmarted Obama"

Trump and Putin at the G20. Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

President Trump claimed today that Russian President Vladimir Putin "outsmarted" President Obama when he annexed Crimea in 2014 and that Russia was expelled from the G8 because Obama was upset at having been outmaneuvered.

Why it matters: Trump wants Russia to be allowed to rejoin the G7 club, and he has repeatedly declined to blame Putin personally for the incursions into Ukraine that united the other G8 members against him. Trump said Putin had been "a good member of the G8" and that the world is better off with Russia "inside rather than outside."

Go deeper: Highlights from Trump-Macron press conference.

Keep ReadingArrowAug 26, 2019

Russia denies U.S. senators visas ahead of congressional visit

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in a statement Tuesday Russia had refused to grant him a visa to visit the country as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation.

Why it matters: Murphy's statement comes a day after fellow Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Russia had refused to grant him a visa. President Trump has been trying to press G7 members to let Russia rejoin the group, after it was disinvited in 2014 from attending the summit for annexing Crimea.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Aug 28, 2019