President Donald Trump acknowledged again that he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying that he had faith in U.S. intelligence agencies – but then pivoted moments later to slam many of the former heads of the intelligence and security communities, saying he “can’t have any confidence” in past officials.
CBS News anchor Jeff Glor on Wednesday asked Trump whether he agrees with U.S. intelligence officials that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, days after Trump denied Russian meddling during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, then backtracked and said he misspoke.
“Yeah and I’ve said that before, Jeff,” Trump replied. “I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah.”
Trump also praised Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel, and said he has confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies “as currently constituted.”
Later in the interview, however, Glor asked Trump if he feels that any intelligence agencies are “out to get [him],” prompting Trump to list several former officials — including former CIA Directors John Brennan and Michael Hayden, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former FBI Director James Comey, among others — who he believes contributed to a “terrible” past. Some of the officials mentioned, while holdovers from the Barack Obama administration, served under Trump at some point. Many also served under President George W. Bush.
“You look at Brennan, you look at Clapper, you look at Hayden, you look at Comey, you look at [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, you look at [FBI agent Peter] Strzok and his lover, [former FBI lawyer] Lisa Page. You look at other people in the FBI that have been fired, are no longer there,” Trump said.
“Certainly I can’t have any confidence in the past,” the President added. “But I can have a lot of confidence in the present and the future, because it’s getting to be now where we’re putting our people in. But in the past, no, I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he’s a total low-life. I have no confidence in Clapper….Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.”
When pressed by Glor during the interview as to whether Putin’s denial of Russian meddling is a lie, Trump demurred. “I don’t want to get into whether or not he’s lying,” he said.
In the lead up to the their summit, Trump maintained that Putin was his “competitor,” rather than his enemy, later adding that the two men could someday be friends, if they knew each other better.