News & Politics

'Grudgingly Convinced': Trump Was Reportedly Shown Decisive Evidence of Putin's Election Interference in 2017 — But Stoked Doubt Anyway

Trump has continually expressed skepticism about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Photo Credit: U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Annie Edwards

President Donald Trump swore that the election was going to be rigged against him — and then he won.

After he won, it became clear that the Russian government had meddled extensively in the election — up to and including targeting voting systems. But faced with these facts, Trump has changed the subjected, raised doubts, floated suspicions, and exonerated those responsible, even while flipping back and forth on whether he believes the underlying truth.

On Wednesday night, the New York Times revealed that Trump's knowledge on the subject is much deeper and extensive than was previously known. Just two weeks before his inauguration in January 2017, the heads of the American intelligence agencies showed him decisive evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin was responsible for the attacks, the report says.

It goes on:

According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.

They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.

And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role.

Trump, sources told the Times, was "grudgingly convinced."

Earlier Wednesday night, CBS aired part of an interview with Trump in which he acknowledged — after having raised doubts on Monday and Tuesday — that Russia interfered in the election. And while he said he would hold Putin responsible for the meddling, he said this in the context of Putin being the leader of his country. He did not suggest, as the New York Times now reports, that he has seen clear evidence that Putin directed the attacks.

This new report puts Trump's waffling on the facts of Russian interference in a new light. With this report in mind, it's hard to take seriously the idea that Trump personally holds doubts about Russia's role in the 2016 election.

And if that's right, then there must be another explanation for his continued efforts to stoke disbelief of the attacks.

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Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.