President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed a finding from a top U.S. intelligence official that found Russia will “primarily denigrate” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
“I think the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because nobody’s been tougher on Russia than I have — ever,” Trump said during a news conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Friday when asked about the intelligence.
Earlier on Friday, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, William Evanina released a report identifying Russia, China and Iran as top foreign threats to the upcoming presidential race.
Evanina’s report fell short of explicitly stating that Moscow wants Trump re-elected for a second term, but noted that the Kremlin “is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate” Biden and what it called “an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’”
The report listed Ukrainian MP Andriy Derkach as an example of the sort of “measures” being taken to “denigrate” Trump’s Democratic opponent.
In December of last year, Derkach met with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in Kyiv and handed him a packet of information about the Bidens. Since then Ukranian parlementarian has spent much of this year releasing what appear to be edited recordings of phone calls between Biden and Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko in 2016.
But Trump has shown little will to recognize these findings, rebuffing a reporter when challenged further about the issue on Friday.
“Well, I don’t care what anybody says,” Trump said.
Without actually addressing election interference the President instead diverted attention to efforts he’s made to beef up the military and saying that he has pressured allies to increase financial support to NATO as examples of how he’s been “tougher” than his predecessors.
But members of Congress have long accused the President of cozying up to the Russian leader.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), among others, chastised the President in June following reports that Trump had allegedly been briefed on an intelligence finding that Russian operatives had offered bounties to Taliban-linked militias in Afghanistan to kill U.S. and coalition troops.
“With him, all roads lead to Putin,” Pelosi said in June referring to Trump’s relationship with the Russian leader, adding, “I don’t know what the Russians have on the president, politically, personally, or financially.”
In an Axios interview that aired on Monday, Trump said that he has “never” discussed the Russian bounty plot in conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has previously denied allegations that the report was shared with him, even calling the intelligence in tweets “possibly another fabricated Russia Hoax.”
In spite of his apparent unwillingness to confront Russia on key national security issues, Trump maintained in Friday’s news conference that “nobody with any common sense” would be inclined to draw conclusions that Russia would have any vested interest in damaging Biden to boost Trump’s own re-election.