Getting ready for his expected first in-person meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin tomorrow in Germany, President Donald Trump told reporters in Poland on Thursday that Russia and "other people and other countries" may have been responsible for interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, as he once more blamed the last President for not doing enough about the cyber threat during the campaign.
"It could have been a lot of people interfered," the President said during a news conference in Warsaw, where he was asked about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
"I've said it very simply, I think it could very well have been Russia, I think it could well have been other countries," Mr. Trump added, as he again tweaked former President Barack Obama, saying that officials of the last administration did not do enough to stop Russia - mainly because they didn't think Hillary Clinton would lose.
"Why did he do nothing about it?" the President asked during a news conference, referring to his predecessor.
“Nobody really knows for sure," the President said about whether Russia was solely responsible.
That assessment that 'other countries' may have been involved in 2016 election meddling goes directly against the assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, which has publicly pointed the finger of blame at Russia since late in last year's campaign.
The matter will get a lot more attention as Mr. Trump gets ready to meet with the Russian leader, as Democrats in Congress continue to press the President to directly raise Russia's involvement.
"POTUS must raise Russia's interference in our election with Putin, or the Kremlin will conclude he is too weak to confront them directly," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Twitter, who is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
"A lot of people interfere. It’s been happening for a long time," the President said, a day before he is set to meet with Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Standing with the Polish President Andrzej Duda, Mr. Trump did send a message to Russia about any meddling in central Europe, saying the U.S. and NATO were "working with Poland in response to Russia's actions and destabilizing behavior."
There was quick reaction from the Kremlin to that statement by Mr. Trump.
"We disagree with this approach," the Kremlin spokesman told reporters in Moscow.
"Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will be able to exchange opinions and understand genuine approaches of each other towards bilateral relations at the first personal meeting in Hamburg," the official TASS news agency reported after Mr. Trump's remarks.