When the 2016 presidential election looked like it might not go Donald Trump’s way, he began complaining that it was going to be “rigged,” giving vague conspiratorial warnings that he would lose due to foul play.
“I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest,” he told attendees at an Ohio rally in August of 2016.
Facing what increasingly look to be rough midterm elections for Republicans, Trump returned to that theme Tuesday, warning darkly on Twitter that he believes Russia will interfere — in order to help the Democrats.
“I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election,” he wrote on Twitter. “Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump.”
A quick fact check:
• Trump offered no evidence for his contention that Russia will interfere to help Democrats.
• The CIA, FBI and National Security Agency found that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump.
• The Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee also found that Russia favored Trump in 2016.
• The head of that committee, GOP Sen. Richard Burr, said he’s seen no evidence to disbelieve Russia favored Trump in 2016.
• Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a joint press conference in Helsinki that he preferred Trump in 2016.
• Trump’s claims that he’s been tougher on Russia were rated “mostly false” and “Three Pinocchios” by fact checkers.
Trump’s own Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said that Russia favored Trump, though he said that conclusion had the “least support” among the various conclusions from the intelligence community. (The CIA, FBI and NSA all said they had “high confidence” that Russia preferred Trump, however.)
A House Intelligence Committee report also questioned whether the intelligence community used proper tradecraft in reaching its conclusion that Russia favored Trump in 2016. (Democrats on the committee did not sign on to that report.)
America’s intelligence agencies are still concerned about Russia, however, with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warning earlier this month that the danger of Russian cyberattacks right now is comparable to the terror threats received before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“The warning lights are blinking red again,” he said. “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”
Trump has long backed conspiracy theories, even after they have been disproven, repeating the false claims that vaccines are related to autism, climate change is a hoax and Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He’s also toyed with other conspiracy theories like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was suspicious or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination.
Some of Trump’s conspiracy theories are tied to his personal situation.
After he lost the popular vote in the 2016 election, Trump floated the baseless contention that millions of Americans voted illegally in the 2016 election, even leading to the creation of a voter fraud commission, and he has repeatedly argued that Russia did not meddle in the election or that Russian meddling did not affect any votes.
At various times, he’s even argued that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to favor Hillary Clinton, a claim that no U.S. intelligence agencies support. “There was no collusion between us and Russia. In fact, the opposite. Russia spent a lot of money on fighting me,” he said in August of 2017.
That echoed a back-and-forth he had at the final presidential debate with Clinton, when she criticized him for not acknowledging Russia was interfering with the election and charged that he would be a “puppet” of the country.
“No puppet. No puppet,” Trump responded. “You’re the puppet.”
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