"I have not sat down and talked to him about that specifically," Spicer said
The US intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia was behind the hacking
White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday said he didn’t know whether President Donald Trump believes Russia was behind interference in the 2016 election.
“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specifically,” Spicer said, again repeating the same explanation when pressed.
The US intelligence community concluded months ago that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic groups and other activity in the 2016 election designed to help elect Trump and hurt his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s chances in the election. The intelligence community released its conclusions in a public report in January.
The final report followed the US intelligence community’s initial statement in October 2016 that claimed senior Russian officials directed the hacking of Democratic Party organizations during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the intelligence community’s conclusions, though he did concede in January that Russia was likely responsible.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” Trump said at a January news conference before his inauguration.
Asked again in April about the intelligence community’s conclusions, Trump appeared ambivalent.
“I’ll go along with Russia,” Trump said, adding: “Could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.”
He added that he’s “OK with” the intelligence communities’ conclusions, but questioned why the FBI hadn’t physically analyzed some of the Democratic servers that were hacked.”
The President’s refusal to pin the blame full-stop on Russia for its campaign to influence the 2016 election stems from allegations that of collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russians – which Trump has emphatically denied. Trump has said that the allegations are aimed at undermining his electoral victory in November.
Spicer’s explanation that he had not spoken to Trump about his views on the Russian election meddling is another example him failing to answer questions about Trump’s position or thinking on a given issue – a key function of his job as White House spokesman.
It also draws attention to the administration’s lackluster response to the allegation of Russian meddling, contrasting with the sense of urgency that senior US officials have called for in response to the interference.
Former FBI Director James Comey testified earlier this month that Trump never asked him about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. But Trump did ask him on multiple occasions about the FBI’s investigation into ties between Trump campaign associates and Russians.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who did not recuse himself from the Russia probe until a month into his tenure – testified last week that he has never received a classified briefing on Russian interference in the 2016 election.