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Unable to help himself, Trump denies Russia backed him in 2016

Trump still denies the findings from his own country, rejects his own administration's intelligence, and ignores the conclusions drawn by his own party.
Image: Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin arrive to attend a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018.Yuri Kadobnov / AFP - Getty Images file

Last summer, Donald Trump launched an illegal extortion scheme, hoping to leverage military support for a vulnerable ally in exchange for political assistance. The American president, of course, got caught and was impeached for his misconduct.

But one of the core motivations behind Trump's scheme was the idea that Ukraine, and not Russia, was responsible for the attack on the U.S. elections in 2016. In fact, looking at the official call summary of Trump's infamous July 25 phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it's clear that the Republican pressed his counterpart in Kyiv to pursue a crackpot conspiracy theory intended to exonerate Russia.

In other words, Trump's suspicion that Russia didn't really attack our elections in order to help put him in power was one of the dominoes that ultimately contributed to his impeachment.

This probably should've taught him a lesson. And yet, this was the line the president peddled to Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo in an interview that aired this morning:

"Now it's all come out that actually [Russia] wanted Hillary Clinton -- you saw that, it came out yesterday -- they wanted Hillary Clinton to win. Nobody's been tougher -- you can speak to Putin or anybody else -- nobody has been tougher on Russian than I have. They wanted Hillary Clinton to win."

Oh my.

For now, let's put aside the painfully obvious fact that Russia wouldn't have stolen Democratic emails, and then strategically weaponized them for maximum political effect, if the Kremlin was eager to boost the Democratic ticket.

Let's instead consider the president's broader resistance to reality. For more than three years, Trump has denied the findings from his own country, rejected his own administration's intelligence, and ignored the conclusions drawn by his own party.

In fact, it was just a few weeks ago when the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released a report that backed the January 2017 assessment of the U.S. intelligence community: Russia targeted the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump. The intelligence assessment, according to GOP and Democratic senators, was accurate, thorough, and untainted by political bias.

But there was the hapless president this morning, seeking validation from Vladimir Putin, telling a national television audience not to believe their lying eyes.

As for what "came out yesterday," Jon Chait explained, "Last night, Fox News reporter Ed Henry excitedly reported to Tucker Carlson that [acting Director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell] has produced documents questioning the conclusion Russia opposed Clinton at all."

Of course, the last time Trump turned to a loyalist to produce intelligence that told the White House what it wanted to hear about this scandal, it led to the so-called "Nunes memo," which backfired spectacularly. With this in mind, the idea that Grenell could cherry-pick some intelligence that overturns everything we know about the controversy is silly.