Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin might prefer Republican nominee Donald Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, because the business magnate has “repeatedly expressed admiration” for the Russian leader in the past.
“I am basing this on what Mr. Trump himself has said,” the president said. “And I think that — Trump’s gotten pretty favorable coverage — back in Russia.”
The president’s comments add considerable heft to mounting evidence that Russian hackers were behind the DNC hack. Obama said that the FBI is still investigating the origin of the hack, but he acknowledged that “experts have attributed this to the Russians.”
It’s one thing when a campaign manager or some campaign surrogates say that Vladimir Putin is working to help elect Trump. It’s quite another when the president says it. That automatically makes it news. And Trump himself is making things worse. Asked by Newsweek, “Do you, or any of your business units have outstanding loans with Russian banks or individuals?” his spox said “Mr. Trump does not have any business dealings in/with Russia.” Then Trump tweeted this:
For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2016
The evasiveness of this answer is pretty obvious. Nobody cares all that much if Trump has business in Russia, they care whether Russian money funds his business here—which might explain why he’s so friendly to Russian interests. He has very carefully avoided answering that question. That’s a bad sign since he would normally just lie about it. He must know that evidence of his reliance on Russian money is out there.
Trump’s tax returns would tell us the answer, of course, but Trump has declined to release them, unlike every other presidential candidate of the past few decades. Maybe now we know why.