After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vietnam this weekend, President Trump said that he was satisfied with Moscow’s denials as to their involvement in the 2016 election. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday, Trump waved away the claims made by the top intelligence officials of the Obama administration, including former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former CIA Director John Brennan.
“I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks,” Trump said. “So you look at it, I mean – you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly – vehemently – says he had nothing to do with them.”
Trump went on to say that claims of Russian interference were mostly a “Democrat-inspired thing” and a “pure hit job” meant to undermine the legitimacy of his election.
The three men hit back at the president on Sunday, telling various outlets that Trump’s faith in the Kremlin’s claims was “astounding” and unwise.
In an interview with CNN, Clapper said that the threat posed to American election by Russia is “manifest and obvious and has been for a long time.”
“To try to paint it in any other way is astounding and poses a peril,” Clapper said. Furthermore, while he agreed with Trump that Putin could be a partner to the U.S. on ISIS “in theory,” it would not be wise for the president to count on it. “I think it’s very naive and in fact perilous to this country to make an assumption that Russia is going to behave with the best interest of the world or certainly the United States. They’re not.”
“It’s still puzzling as to why Mr. Trump does not acknowledge that, embrace it, and push back hard on Mr. Putin,” Brennan said of the intelligence community’s findings that Russia was behind the DNC hacks and other forms of election meddling.
Comey also responded, tweeting a quote from an old sermon in reaction to Trump’s assertion that he is a “liar” and a “leaker.
“‘If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is light as a feather and a breath will carry it,'” Comey tweeted.
As for Trump, he pulled back a bit on Saturday, insisting that while he was eager to pursue a better relationship with Putin, he stood by the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was behind the election interference of 2016.