Speaking with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo Sunday, President Donald Trump quipped that Russia must be quite pleased with their efforts in 2016 to sow discord among the American people, before he launched into his typical criticism of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Insisting that he didn’t like the rancor over the issue because it was “bad for the country,” Trump joked that, “You know, if Russia is, in fact, looking to sow discord or chaos, they’ve got to be saying, ‘This is the greatest thing we’ve ever done.’ ”
He then repeated his claim that he had nothing to do with Russia during or after the 2016 election, calling the investigation a “disgrace.”
Though Trump differentiates between the discord arising from Russian meddling and that tied to his own election, Russian state media appears to make no such distinction.
During a recent panel discussion about the U.S. on Russian state television, a presenter even joked that he didn’t understand why the U.S. was so interested in discussing cybersecurity with Russia when the only “trouble” Russian cyberwarfare has caused for the U.S. was the election of Trump.
Heading into a planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month, it is unclear how Trump will approach the issue. White House national security adviser John Bolton – a longtime Russia critic – indicated Sunday that the issue of election meddling will likely arise but appeared to downplay its importance compared to fashioning a working relationship with Putin.Trump himself has waffled over the past couple of years as to whether he believes U.S. intelligence officials who say Russia clearly interfered in the 2016 presidential election or Putin, who maintains Russia did no such thing.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, suggested on Sunday that the issue would come up as well, but also argued that Trump’s summit with Putin would be a good way for the pair to get past the “political noise” caused by the Russia probe.
Explaining to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that the summit would be “somewhat unstructured” so as to skip “the pressure of immediate deadlines or crises,” Bolton said that he didn’t think that Trump has conceded his leverage over the election meddling issue by accepting Russia’s innocence on Twitter. Bolton also mostly dodged a question as to whether or not Trump believes Russia meddled, responding instead that Putin recently told him “there was no meddling in the 2016 election by the Russian state,” so “it still raises the question,” and that he thinks “the president will want to have a conversation about this and say we don’t want to see meddling in the 2018 election.”