Then, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Oct. 22, 2016. 
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

On the Russia scandal, Trump’s lies start to pile up

Almost immediately after Donald Trump met with U.S. intelligence officials on the Russian hacking scandal, the president-elect issued a written statement that claimed, among other things, that he’d learned “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”

The next morning, Trump was even more explicit about the point he wants to emphasize, arguing that the intelligence he received “stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results.”

The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/6/17, 9:22 PM ET

Trump lies about intelligence report on Russia easily spotted

Rachel Maddow points out that because Americans can read the declassified version of the intelligence report on Russia, we can see that Donald Trump is lying about what the report says about the effect on the election and the hacking of Republican…
As Rachel explained on the show, Donald Trump clearly lied.
“Here’s what’s actually in the report: ‘We did not make an assessment of the impact Russian activities had on the outcome of the election.’

“So, our president-elect is lying to us.  He says this report concluded that Russian hacking had no impact on the election.  This report did not conclude that – and now we know because we can read it ourselves.”
Note the series of events: Trump lied on Friday in his written statement, got called out for his public deception, and then repeated the identical lie on Saturday morning.

On Sunday, Kellyanne Conway, who’ll soon be a senior advisor in the Trump White House, elaborated on the same lie, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper, “If you read the full report, [U.S. intelligence officials] make very clear – Mr. Clapper in his testimony made very clear on Thursday under oath – that any attempt, any aspiration to influence our elections failed.”

That’s spectacularly untrue. The report does not say that, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper did not testify to that to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Trump and Conway are telling a plain and demonstrable lie.

What the intelligence does say is that Russia’s alleged cyber-attack did not affect specific vote tallies. In other words, Moscow stole American materials and hatched a propaganda campaign, but Russian agents did not literally hack into voting machines or state election offices to alter the quantitative results.

And while that’s certainly important, Trump, Conway, and their allies have tried to make a leap from “Russia’s attack didn’t include voting machines” to “Russia’s attack didn’t affect the election.”

Even for Trump World, this is ridiculous. According to a ThinkProgress tally, Donald Trump mentioned the WikiLeaks materials 164 times during the month leading up to Election Day. The Republican did this for a pretty obvious reason: Trump thought the information stolen by Russia to help put him in the White House would, in fact, help put him in the White House.

To turn around now and claim the cyber-attack was irrelevant – citing intelligence that does not exist – is simply indefensible.

This has the potential to be one of the most dramatic election scandals in American history. The fact that the president-elect and his team are brazenly lying about the details suggests this controversy may get worse before it gets better.

Postscript: Trump’s written statement on Friday added, “There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.” There’s ample reason to believe this is a lie, too.

In fact, the unclassified report released soon after Trump’s press release specifically said, “Russia collected [documents from] some Republican-affiliated targets but did not conduct a comparable disclosure campaign.”

This is consistent with previous reports that said Russia did hack the RNC, but instead of releasing the data, Moscow kept the stolen materials under wraps. After all, Vladimir Putin’s purported goal was to help Republicans and hurt Democrats. Using the Democrats’ materials as the basis for a propaganda campaign advanced Russia’s interests, using the Republican documents the same way would not.

Donald Trump, Mendacity, Russia and Scandals

On the Russia scandal, Trump's lies start to pile up