Spicer Hasn't Asked Trump If Russians Meddled in 2016 CampaignBy
The president’s position on hacks hasn’t been consistent
Spokesman also hasn’t asked about climate change, health bill
President Donald Trump’s spokesman said he hasn’t asked his boss whether he believes the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community.
“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday, after he was asked if Trump agrees with the 17 intelligence agencies who concluded that the Russians meddled in the 2016 campaign.
Trump has repeatedly lashed out about investigations into the Russian interference, calling efforts to determine whether people in his campaign colluded with Russian officials a “witch hunt.” Trump has previously said that hacking the intelligence community has pinned on the Russian government could have been perpetrated by China or others.
Spicer said he had “seen the reports” from the intelligence community concluding that the Russian government ordered an influence campaign to interfere with the U.S. election, but that he has not asked Trump about his views.
In December, Trump’s team attacked members of the intelligence community who concluded that the Russians sought to help Trump during the election by releasing hacked campaign emails from Democrats.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Trump’s transition team said in an unsigned statement on Dec. 9. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. ”
Trump said in January he believed Russia was behind the hacking, but since has returned to suggesting that it could’ve been another country.
Spicer, who has been White House press secretary for the entire five months of the Trump presidency, has fielded dozens of questions about Russian interference without speaking to his boss about the central issue in the matter.
The question of what Trump believes is not simply an academic one. Trump said he fired FBI Director Jim Comey last month in part because he thought the FBI’s probe into Russian election meddling was “a made-up story.” The firing led to the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian election interference and that now has expanded into an examination of whether Trump may have obstructed justice.
Trump’s lawyer has said the president isn’t under investigation and Trump has denied any collusion with Russia.
The Russian government has repeatedly denied charges of directing interference in the U.S. election, though Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that “patriotic” Russians could’ve perpetrated the hacking independently.
Spicer’s lack of knowledge about Trump’s views of the Russian campaign meddling fits a pattern for the spokesman, who may be moving to a new position within the White House, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Spicer has also said he hasn’t spoken to Trump about whether he believes in man-made climate change, and doesn’t know whether or not Trump has seen the Senate health-care bill that could receive a vote as soon as next week.
— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs