Trump Repeatedly Ducks Questions About Alleged Campaign Contacts With Russia

“Russia is a ruse.”

President Donald Trump during his Feburary 16 press conferencePablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


In a wide-ranging and at-times erratic press conference that lasted more than an hour Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump said he had “nothing to do” with any possible contacts between his campaign associates and Russia during last year’s election. But he repeatedly declined to assure reporters that no such contacts took place.

“Well I had nothing to do with it,” Trump said when pressed on whether his campaign aides had conversations with Russian intelligence. “I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no deals there.”

At another point during the press conference, he said “nobody that I know of” from his campaign had contacts with Russia during the election.

The press conference took place two days after the New York Times reported that according to current and former US officials, intercepted phone calls showed that “members of [Trump’s] 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” On Thursday, Trump referred to that story as “a joke.” He decried “fake news put out by the media,” which he claimed was spread by “people, probably from the Obama administration, because they’re there, because we have our new people going in place, right now.”

On Monday night, Lt. General Mike Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser following a Washington Post story revealing that Flynn had discussed US sanctions against Russia with the Russian ambassador after the election but before Trump took office—despite denials to Vice President Mike Pence, among others.

Trump said Thursday that Flynn’s talks with the Russian ambassador weren’t the problem; rather he fired Flynn for lying to Pence: “He didn’t tell the vice president of the United States the facts, and then he didn’t remember, and that just wasn’t acceptable to me,” Trump said.

Trump denied ordering Flynn to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador, adding that Flynn was “doing his job.”

“[Flynn] was calling other countries and his counterparts,” said Trump. “So it certainly would have been okay with me if he did it. I would have directed him to do it if I thought he wasn’t doing it. I didn’t direct him, but I would have directed him because that’s his job.”

Trump characterized the various stories about Russia as “ruse” used to distract from Hillary Clinton’s election loss. “You can talk all you want about Russia, which was all a fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats, and the press plays right into it,” he said.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate