Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci explained that President Trump still doesn’t accept the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in last year’s election.
“He basically said to me, ‘Hey you know, this is, maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t do it,’” Scaramucci explained. He added that the president apparently believes Russian intelligence officials are too good at spying to ever allow themselves to get caught in the act. Strangely, Scaramucci also cited an anonymous source to make his case, before quickly identifying Trump as that source.
Here’s the full exchange with State of the Union host Jake Tapper:
SCARAMUCCI: You know, somebody said to me yesterday — I won’t tell you who — that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them, meaning that they’re super-confident in their deception skills and hacking. My point is, all of the information isn’t on the table yet. But here’s what I know about the president …
TAPPER: … I don’t know who this anonymous person is that said, if the Russians had actually done it, we wouldn’t have been able to detect it, but it is the unanimous …
SCARAMUCCI: How about it was — how about it was the president, Jake.
TAPPER: Okay. It’s the consensus of the intelligence community.
SCARAMUCCI: I talked to you yesterday. He called me from Air Force One. … And he basically said to me, hey, you know, this is — maybe they did it. Maybe they didn’t do it.
This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, of course. No one in America seems to have less confidence in the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in last year’s election than President Trump. And Scaramucci told Tapper that the president should be allowed that skepticism, since acknowledging Russia’s meddling would make Trump feel like his victory wasn’t legitimate:
One of the reasons why he’s upset about it is that this sort — this sort of — the mainstream media position on this, that they interfered in the election, it actually, in his mind, what are you guys suggesting? You are going to delegitimize his victory? Is that going to make his victory illegitimate?
Scaramucci argued that Trump should thus be allowed to come to his own conclusion, in his own time, on his own terms, because, “If, in fact, he makes a decision that [the meddling allegations are] 100 percent true, he is going to be super-tough on Russia. But let him — let him — let him do it at his own time and pace.”
Added Scaramucci, “He’s not hurting anybody by doing it at his own time and pace, Jake. He’s not hurting anybody.”
Last month, NBC News reported that the Trump administration has done almost nothing to protect against future attempts to hack the U.S. election system — a deficiency which might have something to do with Trump’s reluctance to admit that Russia has already succeeded in that task.
Whether it’s Trump’s delicate ego, his belief in a mythical 400-pound hacker, the undetectable superiority of Russia’s intelligence apparatus, or, you know, the possible cover-up of collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, there are numerous reasons why no one should ever expect the president to come around to reality on this issue.
It took Trump more than five years to admit unconvincingly that President Obama was born in the United States, and that debate didn’t have anything to do with validating Trump’s self-worth. It’s been more than eight months since Election Day, yet Trump is still brandishing new explanations for why Russia couldn’t have interfered last year. Trump’s preferred explanation, whatever it is now or in the future, will always be one that allows him to ignore the fact that his election was the objective of one of America’s oldest adversaries — or worse, that it’s possible he could not have won at all without their help.