Ahead of summit, Trump again defends Russia over its 2016 attack

Updated

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on Capitol Hill yesterday and testified that Donald Trump’s upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin will include a stern warning from the American leader.

“I’m confident that when the president meets with Vladimir Putin, he will make clear that meddling in our elections is completely unacceptable,” Pompeo told senators.

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The cabinet secretary probably ought to check in with his boss about this. Officials confirmed this morning that Trump and Putin will hold their first dedicated summit in Helsinki on July 16, but just ahead of the announcement, the Republican had something he wanted to get off his chest:

Before details of the meeting were announced Thursday, the president tweeted about the investigation, writing that “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our election!”

Well, yes, Russia hasn’t yet confessed to launching an intelligence operation intended to install the Kremlin’s preferred presidential candidate in the White House, but Trump’s own intelligence and national security officials have told him for quite a while that Putin is responsible for the attack.

The question is why Trump continues, even now, to suggest officials in Moscow are more reliable than officials in his administration.

Almost exactly a year ago, Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, said  that “everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.” Everybody, that is, except the principal beneficiary of Putin’s attack.

Several months later, in January, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared on “Meet the Press” and declared that the president “does now finally believe” that Russia intervened in the 2016 election.

NBC News’ Chuck Todd, echoing the question viewers everywhere were thinking, responded, “He does?” The Republican senator answered, “The president does believe his intel agencies.”

There’s some pretty compelling evidence to the contrary.

Donald Trump, Russia and Vladimir Putin

Ahead of summit, Trump again defends Russia over its 2016 attack

Updated