Trump Told Russians He Didn’t Care If They Interfered In 2016 Election

Not surprisingly, President Trump told Russian officials early on that he didn't care if Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump told Russian officials, including the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the United States, that he wasn’t concerned about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and implicitly that he would not be concerned about interference in the future:

President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.

The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.

A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The White House’s classification of records about Trump’s communications with foreign officials is now a central part of the impeachment inquiry launched this week by House Democrats. An intelligence community whistleblower has alleged that the White House placed a record of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president, in which he offered U.S. assistance investigating his political opponents, into a code-word classified system reserved for the most sensitive intelligence information.

The White House did not provide a comment Friday.

It is not clear whether a memo documenting the May 10, 2017, meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was placed into that system, but the three former officials said it was restricted to a very small number of people. The White House had recently begun limiting the records of Trump’s calls after remarks he made to the leaders of Mexico and Australia appeared in news reports. The Lavrov memo was restricted to an even smaller group, the former officials said.

A fourth former official, who did not recall the president’s remarks to the Russian officials, said memos were restricted only to people who needed to know their contents.

“It was more about learning how can we restrict this in a way that still informs the policy process and the principals who need to engage with these heads of state,” the fourth former official said.

But the three former officials with knowledge of the remarks said some memos of the president’s communications were kept from people who might ordinarily have access to them. The Lavrov memo fit that description, they said.

White House officials were particularly distressed by Trump’s election remarks because it appeared the president was forgiving Russia for an attack that had been designed to help elect him, the three former officials said. Trump also seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections, they said.

This isn’t a surprising attitude from the President of the United States. After all, he spent the better part of two and a half years seeking to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the election and the issue of potential collusion between individuals connected to the President’s campaign and Russian officials. After winning the election, he attempted on a number of occasions to forestall that investigation by pressuring then F.B.I. Director James Comey to back off on the investigation of Michael Flynn, firing Comey due to the Russia investigation and threatening to fire Mueller. At his summit meeting last year with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he stood next to the Russian President and accepted his claim that Russia did not interfere in the election despite the fact that the heads of all the major intelligence agencies, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies. said other otherwise. And, of course, most recently, we learned that he pressured the leader of another foreign nation to help him find “dirt” on a political rival.

Coincidentally, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about this meeting between Trump, the Russian Foreign Minister, and the Russian Ambassador. That meeting after President Trump fired James Comey and it was at that meeting that Trump told the two Russian officials that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation and because Comey would not say that Trump or his campaign was not a target of the investigation, something he later also admitted in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt. Trump’s motive for firing Comey was also confirmed by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. We also learned that Trump revealed classified information to the two Russian officials at this meeting that was so secure that its revelation has had an impact on the willingness of allied nations to share intelligence with the United States.

Taking all of that into context, it’s not surprising that Trump would have told Lavrov and Kislyak that he didn’t care about Russian interference in the election. That has been his position all along. The fact that he admitted it in front of two of the men who were no doubt involved in the operation in some respect is a feature, not a bug.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    I know the US has toppled governments all over the world, withdrawn support for others, and generally meddled non-stop during the Cold War, and some afterwards. But has the US actually interfered with an election? One would think they’d have done that in, say, Chile in the 70s rather than let Allende get elected.

    Regardless, Trump’s saying this to the Russians was incredibly stupid (I know: what a shock). I can see an intellectually honest person (ie not Dennison), say something like, “I cannot condemn you strongly, as my country is guilty of the same sin. But I cannot simply let you get off, either. There has to be a price. So we’ll set up sanctions, and do an investigation. Now, maybe I can keep the investigation quiet, especially the results. But I must be seen doing something, and there must not be more interference from now on. We can end it like this, and pursue a mutually advantageous relationship. But if you as much as get involved in an election for dog catcher in Podunk, I promise you will be very sorry.”

    I wouldn’t be so lenient myself, but then I wouldn’t be in such a position, would I? The point is so-called alpha male Trump just bent over and took it. I suppose he didn’t ask for another, which may be what his deplorables regard as “strength.”

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  2. drj says:

    It’s nice to have some confirmation, but we knew this already.

    Trump campaign officials kept meeting with all these Russians. Even in the absence of hard evidence of collusion, what else were we* supposed to think?

    * Assuming at least a shred of intellectual honesty here.

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  3. CSK says:

    Trump expressed the Platonic ideal of whataboutism.

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  4. Jay L Gischer says:

    It is the President’s job to defend the country from attacks. That includes attacks on democratic institutions and processes. It does not matter a bit if such defense makes him looks hypocritical because of past acts of the US government. We elect him to protect us and our institutions. He takes an oath of office to do so.

    But Trump is incapable of telling the difference between something that’s good for him versus good for the country. And this was good for him.

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  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: What @Jay L Gischer: said. I may be wrong, but my recollection is we did interfere in the Allende election, and supported the subsequent coup. That doesn’t alter the fact that we are used to be the big dog in the meat market. You didn’t do it to us because we’d hurt you if you did. We did a lot of bad stuff, particularly during the Cold War, but on balance we were probably a better hegemon than others would have been. Between W and Trump we’ve pretty well kissed that off, both the better and the hegemon part.

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  6. Joe says:

    @Kathy:

    The point is so-called alpha male Trump just bent over and took it.

    Actually, he looked away and let the American people take it because, as Jay says:

    Trump is incapable of telling the difference between something that’s good for him versus good for the country. And this was good for him.

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  7. michael reynolds says:

    The United States also dropped atomic bombs on cities. So I guess we’d be OK with the Russians nuking Miami. Right?

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  8. Kari Q says:

    Putin is saying that the U.S. needs his approval to release transcripts of calls between him and Trump.

    ReplyReply
  9. Dmichael says:

    @Kathy: I am not sure what you are trying to say. Does the Kissinger / CIA funding of the targeted assassination of the senior military officer and Allende, the democratically elected leader of Chile not count as election interference?

    ReplyReply
  10. Kathy says:

    @Kari Q:

    If such transcripts are nevertheless released, what is he going to do? Sue Congress? Sue El Cheeto (deeper pockets maybe)? Impose sanctions on the US? Drive up the price of oil or natural gas? Place tariffs on US imports?

    about the only thing he could credibly threaten to do is invade and annex the rest of Ukraine, and even that would be very costly.

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  11. Kari Q says:

    @Kathy:

    I took it as a warning to Trump that he would personally pay a price if Trump/Putin calls were published in the same way the Trump/Zelensky call was. The question then would be “What can Putin do to Trump?”

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  12. DrDaveT says:

    @Kari Q:

    I took it as a warning to Trump that he would personally pay a price if Trump/Putin calls were published

    Exactly. Putin is openly blackmailing Trump. Gee, who could have predicted that might happen?

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  13. Teve says:

    Carl Quintanilla
    @carlquintanilla
    · 3h
    MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that Washington would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of phone calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    @Kari Q:
    Gee, it’s almost like Putin has something to hide.

    Right @Guarneri?

    ReplyReply
  15. Teve says:

    So Trump can release the transcript of him and Putin, or he can decline and confirm that he’s Putin’s bitch.

    ReplyReply
  16. Zachriel says:

    @drj: Trump campaign officials kept meeting with all these Russians. Even in the absence of hard evidence of collusion, what else were we* supposed to think?

    It was always very unlikely that Putin would trust a direct conspiracy with the erratic and loose-lipped Trump. Rather, Putin interfered in the U.S. election for Trump’s benefit, while Trump knew and even welcomed Russian interference to his benefit. That doesn’t mean Trump didn’t spill the beans in private conversations with Putin.

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  17. Kathy says:

    @Kari Q:

    One thing Putin can do to Trump is release the Kremlin’s transcripts of their calls.

    If he has enough dirt on Trump, he may figure he should release it to get in the good graces of the next Democratic president.

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  18. michael reynolds says:

    It just keeps getting better.

    Now it seems 1) Pompeo was on the Ukraine call and 2) Trump tried to get the Australian PM to investigate Mueller.

    We should form a pool. Which country will it be next? Who else did the orange thug try to muscle for help with his personal political problems?

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  19. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Which country will it be next?

    Barr: “Robert Mugabe is dead.”
    Trump: “F@ck. I was counting on him for dirt on Pocahontas…”

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  20. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: Well…

    Barr personally asked foreign officials to aid inquiry into CIA, FBI activities in 2016
    https://wapo.st/2oKqoUJ

    intelligence officials, and last week the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and Durham met senior Italian government officials and Barr asked the Italians to assist Durham, according to one person familiar with the matter. It was not Barr’s first trip to Italy to meet intelligence officials, the person said. The Trump administration has made similar requests of Australia, these people said.

    The AG is traveling the world to undercut the intelligence community. Unfuckingbelievable.

    ReplyReply
  21. michael reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT: @Mikey:
    Heading to London this week. If this motherfker resigns while I’m overseas. . . Nixon pulled this on me, not again.

    ReplyReply
  22. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Just make sure your phone works in England, or get a local SIM chip for it (one with a great deal of data included). Or stay within reach of free WiFi.

    It’s not the twentieth century any more.

    ReplyReply
  23. Moosebreath says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “If this motherfker resigns while I’m overseas. . . Nixon pulled this on me, not again.”

    Somehow, I suspect your disappointment will be short-lived.

    ReplyReply
  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Moosebreath:
    Yeah, I’ll get over it.

    ReplyReply
  25. JoshB says:

    @Kathy:

    I’m currently in South Africa, bought a SIM, and aside from video, haven’t had to miss much at all. I normally try to disconnect but this is all too insane to miss.

    ReplyReply
  26. gVOR08 says:

    @Mikey:

    The AG is traveling the world to undercut the intelligence community. Unfuckingbelievable.

    Unfortunately no, it’s entirely believable. The only question is whether Barr believes these RWNJ conspiracy theories, is just going through the motions to suck up to Trumpsky, or in either case is trying to get someone to invent evidence. Also, does it make any difference why he’s doing it.

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