“Russia Says Nothing Exists”: A Dozen Times Trump Has Downplayed Hacking

“It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

Mother Jones illustration; Metzel Mikhail/TASS/ZUMA

Despite the conclusions of US intelligence and the indictments of more than two dozen Russian nationals allegedly involved with the plot, Donald Trump has repeatedly downplayed Russia’s attack on the 2016 elections, suggesting it didn’t happen or that, if it did, someone else was responsible.

June 15, 2016: Amid early reports of the Democratic National Committee hack, Trump’s team issues a statement: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate.”

July 27: Trump makes an infamous request: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” A later indictment discloses Russian intelligence first targeted a key Hillary Clinton email provider “on or about” the same day.

September 7-8: An Obama administration official publicly suggests Russians could be behind the hack. Trump responds on Kremlin-­backed RT: “I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out,” he says. “Who knows, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.”

September 26: During the first presidential debate, Trump says, “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia…It could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?”

October 9: In the second debate, Clinton accuses Trump of benefiting from Russian interference. “She doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking,” he says. “Maybe there is no hacking.”

December 9: Trump’s transition team blasts the CIA’s reported conclusion that Russia intervened to help Trump: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

December 31: Trump claims, “I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”

January 13, 2017: Trump tweets, “Russia says nothing exists.”

September 22: Trump calls Facebook’s conclusion that Russian operatives bought ads on the platform a “hoax.”

November 12: After meeting Vladimir Putin, Trump says, “He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying.” Trump adds, “I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

July 16, 2018: In a joint appearance in Helsinki, Trump takes Putin’s side over US intelligence: “They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

July 17: Back in Washington, Trump claims he misspoke: “The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it WOULDN’T be Russia’—a double negative… I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”