Spicer said Tuesday he hasn't talked to Trump about the hacking
US intelligence agencies agree Russia is to blame
President Donald Trump is known for his blunt talk – on everything ranging from trade to immigration and the fight against ISIS. But throughout the 2016 campaign, and now in the White House, there’s one topic that he’s been less forthcoming about – Russia’s role interfering in the US election.
He’s answered questions about attempts to hack the 2016 election many different ways throughout the campaign and since ascending to the presidency – even speculating during a debate last year that it “could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
The unanimous assessment of the US intelligence community is clear: Russia orchestrated a series of hacks and cyberattacks to meddle in the 2016 election and help Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Intelligence agencies have not concluded that Russian efforts made a difference in the election result.
Only once has Trump clearly pointed the finger at the Russian government, and as recently as Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer dodged reporters’ questions on whether Trump holds that belief.
Here is a timeline of Trump’s comments about Russian interference in the election:
June 15, 2016
The Trump campaign said the Democratic National Committee probably hacked itself as a distraction.
“We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader,” Trump said in a statement, Politico reported. “Too bad the DNC doesn’t hack Crooked Hillary’s, 33,000 missing emails.”
September 8, 2016
Trump, in an interview with Larry King that aired on on the Kremlin-run RT, dismissed claims Russia hacked the DNC, and dismisses the notion that a Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 election is underway.
LARRY KING: Putin recently said that the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails was a public service. You agree?
TRUMP: I don’t have any opinion on it. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know who hacked. I’m not sure who – I mean, you tell me, who hacked? Who did the hacking? But I have absolutely no opinion on that. I don’t know, I haven’t heard that statement.
KING: US intelligence and law enforcement agencies reportedly are investigating whether Russia launched a covert operation to disrupt the 2016 election. What do you make of that?
TRUMP: I don’t know. I’ve been hearing about it. I’ve been reading about it. I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out, who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely, but you know, who knows? I hope that if they are doing something, I hope that somebody is going to be able to find out, so they can end it, because that would not be appropriate at all.
September 27, 2016
Trump dismissed allegations that Russia is behind the DNC hack during the first presidential debate.
“As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said, we should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China, but it could also be lots of other people, it also could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
“Now, whether that was Russia, whether that was China, whether it was another country, we don’t know, because the truth is, under President Obama we’ve lost control of things that we used to have control over. We came in with an Internet, we came up with the Internet. And I think Secretary Clinton and myself would agree very much, when you look at what ISIS is doing with the Internet, they’re beating us at our own game. ISIS.
“So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyberwarfare. It is a, it is a huge problem. I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly do-able. But I will say, we are not doing the job we should be doing, but that’s true throughout our whole governmental society. We have so many things that we have to do better, Lester, and certainly cyber is one of them.”
October 10, 2016
At the second presidential debate, Trump dismissed claims that Russia is behind the hacks, questioned whether there are any hacks in the first place and said he has no business in Russia.
“But as far as other elements of what she was saying, I don’t know Putin. I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don’t know Putin. But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are – she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia. I know – I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia.”
December 11, 2016
Trump claimed no one knows who did the hacking during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country,” Trump said. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place,” he said. “I mean, they have no idea.”
December 15, 2016
Trump questioned whether Russia was behind election hacks.
“If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?” he tweeted.
December 31, 2016
Trump suggested again that Russia may not have been behind the hacking.
“I just want them to be sure, because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Trump told reporters at a New Year’s Eve party in Mar-a-Lago, according to The Guardian. “And if you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong.”
January 3, 2017
Trump referred to Russian hacking as “so-called” on Twitter.
“The “Intelligence” briefing on so-called “Russian hacking” was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!” he tweeted.
January 4, 2017
Trump claimed “somebody hacked the DNC” in a tweet.
From Twitter: “Somebody hacked the DNC but why did they not have “hacking defense” like the RNC has and why have they not responded to the terrible……”
January 5, 2017
Trump said the DNC was only “supposedly hacked by Russia.”
“The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia……” he tweeted.
January 6, 2017
Intelligence heads briefed Trump on Russian hacking and the dossier, CNN reported, and Trump again declined to say clearly that Russia was behind the election-related hacks
“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,” Trump said in a statement following the briefing. “There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.”
January 11, 2017
Trump said for the first time he believes Russia was behind election hacks during a news conference.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” Trump said during a news conference as President-elect. “And I have to say this also, the Democratic National Committee was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job. They could’ve had hacking defense, which we had. And I will give Reince Priebus credit, because when Reince saw what was happening in the world and with this country, he went out and went to various firms and ordered a very, very strong hacking defense. And they tried to hack the Republican National Committee and they were unable to break through.”
April 23, 2017
Trump said he’s neutral regarding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange’s actions during the 2016 election in an interview with The Associated Press.
“When Wikileaks came out, all I was just saying is, ‘Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff.’ You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management. But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans,” Trump told the AP.
Asked if he supported what Assange did, Trump said: “No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information. They shouldn’t have allowed it to get out.”
April 30, 2017
Hackers could have been China or “a lot of different groups,” Trump said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
“Knowing something about hacking, if you don’t catch a hacker, OK, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking,” the President told CBS. “With that being said, I’ll go along with Russia. Could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.”“
May 11, 2017
Trump said he wants to get to the bottom of Russian election hacks in an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt.
“I think that we have to get back to work but I want to find out – I want to get to the bottom. If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election I want to know about it,” Trump said.
When Hold said US intelligence has said Russia is responsible, Trump said: “I’ll tell you this – if Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections I think it’s a horrible thing and I want to get to the bottom of it and I want to make sure it will never ever happen.”
June 20, 2017
Spicer said Tuesday he hasn’t asked Trump whether he believes Russia interfered in the election.
“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” Spicer said during the press briefing.
Asked if Trump agrees with the finding of the intelligence agencies, Spicer repeated: “I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them, so I’d be glad to touch base and get back to you.”
CNN’s Adam Chan contributed to this report.