Timeline of Trump’s statements on the Russian hacking issue
. . . June 15, 2016: A day after the Washington Post breaks the news that the Democratic National Committee has been hacked, allegedly by Russian spies, Trump’s team issues a statement: “We believe it was the DNC that did the ‘hacking’ as a way to distract from the many issues facing their deeply flawed candidate and failed party leader.” On the same day, a hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0 says he’s given the hacked emails to WikiLeaks, and also publishes them himself, complete with telltale Russian-language formatting errors.
July 27, 2016: In a news conference, Trump addresses the Russian hacking scandal: “They hacked—they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do,” he says. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
September 26, 2016: In the first presidential debate: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. [Clinton’s] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?” Weeks earlier, according to NBC News, both Trump and Clinton had been given classified briefings by intelligence agencies that included “extensive” information about the hacking incidents, which implicated Russia.
October 10, 2016: Days after the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence release a unanimous assessment that the hacking incidents were authorized by “Russia’s senior-most officials,” Trump questions in the second presidential debate whether any hacking occurred at all. “I notice, any time anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians,” he says. “Well, [Clinton] doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking.”
October 20, 2016: In the third presidential debate:
Trump: [Clinton] has no idea whether it is Russia, China or anybody else.
Clinton: I am not quoting myself.
Trump: You have no idea.
Clinton: I am quoting seventeen, seventeen [US intelligence agencies.] Do you doubt…
Trump: Our country has no idea.
December 7, 2016: In an interview with Time Magazine after his election, Trump reiterates, “It could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”
December 9, 2016: The Washington Post reports that the CIA believes the Russian government hacked the DNC with the explicit intention of helping Trump win the election. Trump’s transition team responds in a short statement: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” Trump has at this point taken multiple presidential briefings from the intelligence agencies.
December 11, 2016: Trump tells Fox News: “Nobody really knows, and hacking is very interesting. Once they hack, if you don’t catch them in the act you’re not going to catch them.” Breach remediation firm Crowdstrike points out that it did in fact catch the hackers “in the act,” monitoring their activities inside the DNC network for weeks. A few days later, an FBI official tells the Associated Press the bureau now backs the CIA’s assessment that Russia hacked the DNC to help elect Trump.
December 29, 2016: Obama imposes new sanctions on Russia and ejects 35 Russian diplomats from the US. Trump writes in a statement that “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, in the interest of our country and its great people, I will meet with leaders of the intelligence community next week in order to be updated on the facts of this situation.”
December 31, 2016: Trump again doubts the intelligence agencies in a news conference in Florida: “I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.” He says he’ll reveal something about the hacking incidents on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.
January 3, 2016: Trump tweets that his intelligence briefing on the Russian hacking evidence has been postponed.
The “Intelligence” briefing on so-called “Russian hacking” was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
NBC News reports the briefing had always been scheduled for Friday.
January 4, 2016: Trump tweets:
Julian Assange said “a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta” – why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2017
The statement conflates the hack of Clinton staffer John Podesta with the hack of the DNC. The DNC hack was believed to have used more sophisticated malware rather than the phishing attack that stole Podesta’s email password. Trump adds that the DNC should have had “hacking defense” like the Republican National Committee, ignoring a report from the New York Times that the Republican National Committee was also breached by hackers.
Trump could still follow through on his vow to reveal more new information about the last year’s political hacking today. The American spy agencies that have been briefing him for months will no doubt be interested to hear what clues they missed—and so, perhaps, will Vladimir Putin.
The introduction to the time line is quite good and worth reading. Among other things, he points out something missing from this timeline: Trump’s call for a full investigation and a public release of as much of the findings as is consistent with national security.