According to BBC, US President Donald Trump has defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election:

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

This seems quite an unpopular thing to do considering that US opinion about Russia is mostly unfavorable. Also, the same source reveals that US people consider Russia to be the second United States' greatest enemy today (after North Korea).

I am wondering what can Trump possibly gain from such an approach?

Question: Was any official explanation provided for Trump defending Russia over FBI?


2 Answers 2


The official explanation is that Trump misspoke.

President Donald Trump attempted on Tuesday to clarify his widely criticized comments in Helsinki, saying that he had misspoken when he said a day earlier that he did not see why Russia would have meddled in the election. Trump said Tuesday he meant to say he did not see any reason why it wouldn't have been Russia that interfered.

"I thought that I made myself very clear, but having just reviewed the transcript...I realized that there is a need for some clarification," Trump said Tuesday at the White House. "The sentence should have been...'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia'. [...]

"I have felt very strongly that while Russia's actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying...that I accept our American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," the president said.

But, Trump added, "Could be other people also, there’s a lot of people out there."

(Also video.) There's now a CNN background story of how the (written) clarification came to be, what Trump himself contributed to it, as well as reactions to it etc.

  • 13
    "I thought I was clear even though I was saying the exact opposite". We live in crazy times.
    – user1530
    Jul 17, 2018 at 20:09
  • 8
    +1, his seems to answer the question. Trumps explanation doesn't seem believable at all though, as that version doesn't make any sense in context. It's pretty clear that it's a prepared statement from his staff to reduce some of the damage caused. For context, you might want to link to the context of the original statement (see eg here).
    – tim
    Jul 17, 2018 at 20:14
  • 2
    @tim: yeah, I noticed he was reading from notes (unusual for him) and looked pretty jet lagged. Jul 17, 2018 at 20:20

The 2nd question in the poll maybe telling. Until 2012 only 2%-3% of respondents considered Russia the biggest threat. The perception of the threat increased with the invasion of Crimea. The belief that Russia has influenced the US election in 2016 doesn't seem to effect the opinion much. The number of people who consider Russia to be the biggest threat in 2018 is 19% -- only 4% higher than the number of people who considered Russia to be the biggest threat in 2015.

It maybe helpful to note that last week was the week that Lisa Page and Peter Stzrock testified before the House about the allegation that they conspired to taint investigations which influenced the last Presidential election.

So the complete picture of what was happening when President Trump made his statement can be summed up with the following facts:

  • Trump and a number of people on the right stated that they considered China to be the biggest international threat to the US.
  • Trump established a good working relationship with the President of China despite this threat.
  • There are a number of yet-to-be-resolved scandals surrounding investigations (and alleged influence) of 2016 elections by US law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Some allegations indicate undue influence against the Trump campaign.
  • Trump was in the process of attempting to normalize a heated relationship with the Russian Federation.
  • A number of Russian Federation citizens were formally indicted in the US for actual crimes (e.g., hacking into electronic systems). Russia did not deny that these citizens committed those crimes although it did disavow any sanctioning of these activities.
  • The opposition party is attempting to downplay the scandals surrounding law enforcement's role in 2016 elections to score political points against a sitting President.

All of these facts taken in concert provide a fairly good incentive for President Trump to act the way he does.

Given that the claims made by BBC were made about public statements, these claims can be evaluated as to their merit. They are, at best, exaggerations. President Trump stated that Putin emphatically denied sanctioning the hacking. What was unambiguously missing from Trump's statement was any (even the slightest) hint that he believed Putin.

Trump was in the process of attempting to create a better relationship with another country (his job). While personal insults had worked with other national leaders, President Trump clearly thought that this approach was not the best course of action in this instance.

  • 7
    I don't follow your logic. What do Page and Stzrock have to do with Russia? Also, I fail to see why "President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be" (direct quote from Trump via the OP's article) is not saying he believes Putin.
    – Bobson
    Jul 17, 2018 at 19:36
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    @Bobson Strzok and Page were critical of Trump in private messages they send to each other, and some on the right use that to construct some sort of FBI conspiracy to bring Trump down. OP seems to use that to imply that Trump is right - or had reason to believe he might be right - to take Putins advice over that of US security services. The Strzok hearing has widely been considered a baseless spectacle, but if you do believe conspiracy theories, then defending Russia over a deep-state FBI might make sense.
    – tim
    Jul 17, 2018 at 20:05
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    @tim, also it's not just misleading, but downright deceitful, to say that Strzok and Page were simply critical of Trump in their text messages. They claimed in their messages to each other to be part of a conspiracy. "Secret society" is the phrase that they themselves used. Even if they used it in jest, it's deceitful to attribute overactive imagination to those who describe their communications as discussions of a conspiracy. P&S were unequivocally discussing it. What P&S actually meant by it is a different story.
    – grovkin
    Jul 17, 2018 at 21:56
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    None of this provides a clear factual answer to the question. Jul 18, 2018 at 3:39
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    @indigochild, thank you for your useful commentary. I am puzzled though at how selective you are about applying (or not applying) this standard to some of the other answers here. Of course, I do know that this question was asked to solicit opinions and the "official statement" change to the question is just a cover. But the fact that you haven't applied the same level of rigor to far more inflammatory and far less factual answers here tells volumes.
    – grovkin
    Jul 18, 2018 at 4:03

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