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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Trump endorsement of Putin’s denial of election meddling riles US intelligence services

The president’s attack on former heads of the CIA and FBI as ‘hacks’ drew condemnation from sacked acting attorney general Sally Yates

Donald Trump addresses the APEC CEO summit in Vietnam, but his remarks on Russian intervention in the 2016 elections have made the headlines at home. AFP/Jim Watson
Donald Trump addresses the APEC CEO summit in Vietnam, but his remarks on Russian intervention in the 2016 elections have made the headlines at home. AFP/Jim Watson

There has been anger from America’s intelligence and law communities in response to Donald Trump’s assertion today that he believed Vladimir Putin’s denial of Russian involvement in efforts to manipulate the result of the 2016 presidential election.

“He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” the US president told reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday.

“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr Trump said. “I can’t stand there and argue with him. I would rather have him get out of Syria. I would rather get to work with him on the Ukraine.”

CIA director Mike Pompeo released a statement that said the spy agency held Russia to have interfered in 2016. “The director stands by and has always stood by the January 2017 intelligence community assessment titled Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections. The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed.”

His statement was echoed by Sally Yates, the acting attorney general fired by the president in January after she refused to have the justice department defend Mr Trump’s first attempt at a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.

“POTUS embraces Putin yet again telling world he believes former KGB agent’s denial of attack on our election over our own Intel public servants, calling them ‘political hacks.’ Disturbing and shamelessly unpatriotic, on Veterans Day no less,” Ms Yates tweeted.

The president had also criticised former US intelligence officials as ‘hacks’, including former CIA director John Brennan, former director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former FBI director James Comey.

"I mean, give me a break, they are political hacks," Mr Trump said. “So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker.”