Trump's Russia lies keep on coming — and so do his hollow, hypocritical attacks on Obama

At his Poland press conference, the president rolled out an especially egregious list of falsehoods and distortions

Published July 7, 2017 5:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump   (AP//Evan Vucci)
Donald Trump (AP//Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump hates the “dishonest media,” except when he doesn’t. Generally, his least favorite press outlets include the usual: The New York Times, CNN and the Washington Post. He hates the Post so much, in fact, that the first person he called after an early attempt at Trumpcare legislation failed in Congress wasn’t Bret Baier or Sean Hannity from Fox News, it was Robert Costa from the Post. He also continues to repeat bits and pieces from a bombshell article about the Russian attack on our election published by, yes, the Washington Post. Again, the alleged “fake news.”

The specific article Trump appears to have cited over and over was published a couple weeks ago, and somewhat unflatteringly detailed the Obama administration’s response to the Russian attack, along with further details about the attack itself. Trump was apparently so enamored with this Post article that during his joint press conference with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on Thursday, he elaborated on some of the details at length.

Trump claimed that former President Barack Obama “did nothing” about the attack, for example, even though Trump also continues to assert that the whole thing is a hoax orchestrated by the Democrats. I’m not sure why no one has challenged him to his face about the contradiction: He keeps blaming Obama for an attack that Trump says never happened, but fine. It’s Trump. He’s always contradicting his own statements, and especially the statements of his staff. See also his multiple and contradictory explanations for firing former FBI Director James Comey.

Nevertheless, Trump has launched attacks on Obama on several occasions using or, dare I say, exploiting the Post’s reporting. The problem is that Trump is lying about Obama’s reaction to the Russian attack. He keeps saying Obama “did nothing” and that’s simply untrue. Certainly Obama could have done much more to warn the public and to thwart the attack sooner, but the reality is that by the time Obama was first alerted about it last August, the Russian attack was already underway. Many of the prongs in Vladimir Putin’s strategy were already in operation, and Obama had no real way to shut it down, other than to warn Putin to lean on the brakes and cut the crap. Obama, according to the article, did exactly that in September when he warned Putin to stop the hacking, a move that “prompted Moscow to abandon any plans of further aggression, such as sabotage of U.S. voting systems.” I guess that part of the article wasn’t recited to Trump. 

Trump also clearly wasn’t briefed on the rest of the Post article, which documented how the Obama administration retaliated in various ways. I mean, most of the details were contained in the first several paragraphs, not buried deep in the article where they'd be easy to miss. In any event, Trump should surely have been briefed about Obama’s actions after taking office. Some of those actions includes additional sanctions applied to the economically beleaguered Kremlin as well as the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the United States.

Obama also authorized the planting of “digital bombs” within Russia's infrastructure, to be detonated if Russia continues its attack on America. Fun fact: the Trump administration is tasked with continuing that operation. Take a guess whether they have. Obama also evicted that Russia from two diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York that were widely understood to be spy bases. Trump, as you may have read, is planning to give the compounds back to the Russians in exchange for exactly nothing. Initially, we were supposed to trade the compounds for a new U.S. consulate in Russia, but according to the Washington Post, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dropped the consulate request as part of the deal when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak infamously visited the Oval Office back in May, the day the Comey firing was announced.

So not only did Obama take measures to retaliate against further attacks, but it appears as if Trump -- the guy who has repeatedly accused Obama of doing “nothing” -- is actually undermining those efforts. Indeed, it’s likely that Trump is the one doing nothing -- nothing to punish the Russians for what they did last year, and nothing to prevent the next attack.

On top of all that, during his press conference in Poland, Trump scolded the news media for citing the “17 intelligence agencies” that assessed the attack, telling NBC News reporter Hallie Jackson that only three agencies reported that Russia attacked us, not 17. Trump was being deeply deceptive here, especially since he has surely been briefed privately on everything related to Russia. (At least, we hope he’s been.) Either way, Trump is clearly talking about a January joint intelligence assessment from the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Agency.

Back in October, however, on the same day the "Access Hollywood" pussy-grabbing tape dropped, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement confirming the Russian attack. The first four words in that statement were “the U.S. Intelligence Community.” Here’s the first full sentence from the report: “The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” Citing the entire intelligence community overtly implies that all agencies were included. Of course, right-wing media and Trump trolls everywhere will forever repeat Trump’s lie about this assessment.

One last thing while we’re here. There’s a commonly repeated line about the Russian attack that’s becoming increasingly pernicious. We keep hearing that Russia didn’t impact the results of the election. Whether it comes from Trump supporters or former Obama people or anyone else, this is highly misleading. First of all, there have been a number of stories showing that Russians at least attempted to tamper with voting systems in 21 states -- perhaps as many as 39 states.

No, there is no clear evidence that the Russians were able to change actual votes. But Russia really didn’t have to change the vote count on Election Day because the entire operation was about changing minds long before Nov. 8, 2016. The attacks on social media, targeting specific voters using fake news and propaganda, not to mention the minds changed due to the email leaks from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign, almost surely pushed an unknown number of voters toward Donald Trump, or simply convinced them to stay home. The entire operation was about altering the psychology of voters during the campaign season. So by that standard, yes, votes were changed because minds were changed.

And Donald Trump, the president of the United States, so far has refused to take any actions to prevent the next attack, which, according to James Comey and others, is likely to be more severe. Trump’s deceit and inaction, not to mention his unilateral appeasement of Putin, will only strengthen the continuing effort to invade our sovereignty and shatter the integrity of our democratic institutions.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.