Oops: For the First Time, President Trump Says 'Russia Help[ed] Me to Get Elected' — Then Takes It Back
"I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected," the president tweeted Thursday
For what seems to be the first time, he acknowledged what American intelligence officials have long said: The Russian government and other Russian actors interfered in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
Trump referred to this interference in a series of tweets arguing he was the unfair target of “Presidential Harassment” because he had done nothing wrong.
“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist,” Trump tweeted.
“So now the Dems and their partner, the Fake News Media, say he fought back against this phony crime that didn’t exist, this horrendous false accusation, and he shouldn’t fight back, he should just sit back and take it,” he continued. “Could this be Obstruction? No, Mueller didn’t find Obstruction either. Presidential Harassment!”
Vera Bergengruen, a Washington reporter for TIME, described Trump’s tweet as “seemingly the first time he’s ever publicly acknowledged Russia ‘helped elect’ him.”
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted that “Trump folks are saying he did this as a ‘mistake’ and saying we should take note of him saying the opposite later.”
About an hour after Trump’s Thursday morning tweets, he told reporters outside the White House that “Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.”
“You know who got me elected? I got me elected,” he said.
Robert Mueller, the special counsel who was investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, said he did not find collusion or a conspiracy between Trump’s team and the Russians.
However, Mueller damningly documented multiple times that the president attempted to control or end the investigation — though he declined whether to say if that was illegal obstruction of justice.
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Instead, Mueller has implied the question is best left to Congress. Attorney General William Barr said the behavior Mueller detailed in his investigation did not constitute obstruction.
Trump has historically been reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the Russian interference campaign in the last presidential election. According to Mueller, in addition to a disinformation campaign on social media the Russian government also stole emails from Democratic officials and helped spread them online to damage Clinton.
“I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China,” Trump said during one of the 2016 presidential debates. “It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 lbs., okay? You don’t know who broke in to DNC.”