‘It’s not a game’: Trump on Russia story, Mueller probe and more in The Washington Post
Donald Trump has said that he was never aware of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election before he was elected president.
But his campaign and other associates were clearly aware of some of these efforts and that some may have been done as part of an effort to help Trump win the White House.
He said the Russian attempt to hack his campaign’s emails was not a “game.”
The former president’s comments come in a new report released by The New York Times on Friday that says a former top intelligence official told the paper that Russian intelligence agents sought to influence his election campaign.
The former official, Daniel Coats, said the goal was to sow doubts in voters about the legitimacy of the election, according to the report.
Coats was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time.
The Times story cites other intelligence officials who said the Russians were also trying to sway the election.
“The goal was certainly to try to sow doubt about the election and the legitimacy thereof,” Coats told The Times.
“There was a concerted effort to sow those doubts.
And it was the Russians who were engaged in that effort.”
According to the Times, Coats said Russian President Vladimir Putin personally asked him in 2015 to ask for more information on whether Russian intelligence had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Coates declined to comment on the specific conversations between Putin and Coats.
The Times report said that at the same time that Coats and the former intelligence official were talking, Trump was meeting with a Russian banker and was told about a meeting that took place in Moscow in 2016 that allegedly included Coats that he later said was not about his campaign.
Coets was later removed from the Senate’s intelligence committee.
The Russian effort was described as a “strategic alliance” between Russia and the Trump campaign, according the report, which cited a Russian intelligence official as saying that “Moscow has been attempting to build a permanent alliance between Trump and Putin over the last several years.”
Coats and Trump met in the Oval Office in March of 2017, the Times said.
“Coats told the former senior official that he had learned that Russia was working with the Trump team to try and influence the election,” the report said.
“Coats said he told Trump, ‘I hope you can see the Russia problem is a hoax.'”
The former senior intelligence official who told the Times that Coates was removed from his Senate intelligence committee said the former president did not recall the conversation with Coats but was “deeply troubled by the possibility of Russia having had an influence on the 2016 campaign.”
The Times story said that Trump, who is currently a member, also told Coats about the meeting with Russian banker, which he said he didn’t recall.
“I had no recollection of it,” Trump told the newspaper.
“I’m not saying I didn’t know about it.”
The story did not say whether Coats spoke to Trump directly, or whether he did not speak to the former director of the National Security Agency, former FBI Director James Comey.