Trump’s refusal to address Russian interference makes him look more like a defendant than a president.
Trump blew off reporters’ questions about Russia on Friday, just hours after special counsel Robert Mueller’s team released an indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
The 37-page indictment lays out extensive new evidence about the lengths that Russian operatives went to undermine the American democratic process and change the outcome of the election.
Among other things, the charges allege that Russians working for the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency created false American personas and stole the identities of real Americans as part of an effort that was aimed at “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
Importantly, the indictment puts to rest Trump’s claims that the Russian investigation is a “hoax” or a “witch-hunt” — claims that he has made repeatedly, including in specific reference to the idea that Russians used social media to manipulate American voters.
Naturally, with the explosive new indictment in hand, reporters wanted to know if Trump still believes the claims that he has clung to for well over a year.
He was confronted by some of those reporters Friday afternoon as he left the White House to board Marine One.
“Do you still the Russia investigation is a hoax?” one reporter asked. Others wanted to know about his failure to impose sanctions on Russia, asking, “Will you punish Russia?” and “Will you put sanctions on Russia?”
Trump had no answers for the press — but he did awkwardly give them a thumbs-up as they probed him about a foreign adversary’s efforts to undermine our democracy.
Moments after blowing off the press, Trump tweeted about the indictment, saying, “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
The indictment actually didn’t mention anything about the results of the election, nor did it state that there was no collusion. In fact, according to Bloomberg News, “Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors haven’t concluded their investigation into whether President Donald Trump or any of his associates helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election.”
What the indictment did make clear, however, was that “by early to mid-2016, [Russia’s] operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump.”
Trump’s ongoing refusal to acknowledge this fact makes him look more like a defendant than a president.