- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- The Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser, and Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff, had urged President Donald Trump to accept US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election but that Trump said he did not trust the findings.
- Trump has publicly wavered on the issue during his first year in office.
- He has said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that he had no role in the interference.
In face-to-face interventions with Donald Trump before his inauguration, his senior adviser Jared Kushner and chief of staff, Reince Priebus, urged the president to accept the findings of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, according to an in-depth report by The Washington Post published Thursday.
But Trump refused, saying they could not be trusted, the report said.
Kushner, Priebus, and others at the meetings had hoped to get Trump to acknowledge the agencies’ conclusion so he could move on from the issue and begin reconciling with Russia, according to the report.
“This was part of the normalization process,” one participant told The Post. “There was a big effort to get him to be a standard president.”
But Trump responded to his staff’s efforts with anger – despite being told other members of his Cabinet had already accepted the findings, he saw no reason to do so himself, The Post reported.
“So what?” he responded, according to the report, adding that acknowledging that Russia had hacked into the Democratic National Committee was a “trap.”
Though Trump has publicly wavered on the issue, he has not unequivocally backed the intelligence agencies’ findings.
In January, he told reporters he thought Russia was involved in the hacking, though he added some caveats.
And at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in July, Trump opened his meeting with Putin with a question on Russian interference in the 2016 election but largely focused on other topics.
But on one occasion during his trip in Asia last month, Trump signaled that he trusted Russian President Vladimir Putin over US intelligence agencies.
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
Trump later clarified that he believed that Putin did not think Russia interfered in the election.
“I believe very much in our intelligence agencies,” he told reporters, though he didn’t mention their conclusion.