A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, May 14, 2016.
Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP

Trump still questions U.S. intelligence on Russia

The Rachel Maddow Show, 12/6/16, 9:40 PM ET

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One of the biggest political developments of 2016 was largely overlooked by voters and the political world in general. There’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest a foreign government – Vladimir Putin’s Russia – took deliberate criminal steps to interfere with the American presidential election, apparently because foreign officials preferred one candidate to the other.

Indeed, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all reached the same conclusion: Russia apparently stole American materials in order to interfere with the U.S. political process.

Before the election, Trump said he simply did not believe American intelligence agencies when it came to Russia. After the election, he evidently hasn’t changed his mind. Time, which today named Trump “Person of the Year,” reports:
For reasons that remain unclear, Trump still refuses to acknowledge the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin’s agencies were responsible for stealing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails released on WikiLeaks. “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe they interfered,” Trump says.

Asked if he thought the conclusion of America’s spies was politically driven, Trump says, “I think so.”
It’s not at all clear why, exactly, Trump believes this, and he’s never explained what’s led him to question the veracity of American intelligence – other than his own personal preferences.

It does help explain, however, why the president-elect has blown off most of the available national-security intelligence briefings that have been made available to him during the transition process: Trump doesn’t seem to believe what U.S. agencies have to tell him.

Once he’s in office, making life-or-death decisions about international affairs, Trump’s skepticism about his own intelligence agencies might make things … how do I put this … problematic.

In related Trump/Russia news:

* As Rachel noted on the show last night, the Republican president-elect is considering pro-Putin cabinet secretaries.

* Putin himself offered public praise for Trump last week.

* Viktor Nazarov, the governor of Omsk, Russia, declared in a radio interview the other day, “It turns out that United Russia won the elections in America.”

* Russia and Ukraine appear to be quarreling over which of them interfered more in the American presidential election.

* We still don’t know why Trump’s operation may have lied to the public about pre-election communications with Russian officials.

* And several U.S. Democratic senators are urging President Obama to declassify information on Russia’s role in helping Trump win the election before Trump takes office.

Eric Chenoweth, the co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed two weeks ago, “In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.”

Donald Trump, Russia and Vladimir Putin

Trump still questions U.S. intelligence on Russia