President-elect Donald Trump followed up his classified briefing on the Russian cyberattacks that were launched to benefit his election campaign by releasing a self-serving and misleading statement which reveals his most pressing concern: Protecting the legitimacy of his win from the unavoidable impression that these cyberattacks helped to deliver it.
In a classic Friday afternoon news dump, following the classified briefing on Russian cyberattacks during the election, President-elect Donald Trump issued a carefully-crafted statement which attempted some heavy strategic lifting, but still failed to directly acknowledge Russia as the perpetrators of those attacks.
Instead, Trump pivoted to the crisis of legitimacy, which is apparently far more important for him and his team (emphasis mine):
Statement by President-Elect Donald J. Trump
(New York, NY) President–elect Donald J. Trump released the following statement at the conclusion of the meeting with Intelligence Community leaders:
“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation.
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.
“Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office. The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”
Interim Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile reacted to Trump’s comments in a statement, noting that, “For the first time ever, President-elect Donald Trump is not disputing the fact that Russia was behind the targeted attack on the DNC and the Clinton campaign.”
It is a baby step — Trump does not dispute Russia’s role, but neither does he place the necessary focus on it. The statement makes glancing mention of Russia alongside China, which did not participate in the cyberattacks in question, so his flacks can insist he acknowledged Russia’s role without Trump actually addressing it specifically. They will use this meager mention to try to erase Trump’s months of acting as Russia’s defense-attorney-in-chief.
Much like his lies about his racist campaign of birtherism, Trump is trying to superficially seek an end to the discussion of this damaging issue without actually doing anything about it.
Sandwiched right in the middle, though, is the meat of Trump’s statement: His unfounded declaration that “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election,” an impression that he has gone to great lengths to sell, but one which the facts will continue to contradict.
That Trump continues to be unconcerned with this assault on our democracy speaks volumes about the man, and the presidency he will usher in.