One day after his “100 Day” rally in Harrisburg, president Trump “Faced the nation” on CBS, and suggested that China may have hacked the emails of prominent Democrats to meddle with the 2016 presidential election, countering the view of U.S. intelligence officials who have said Moscow is behind the hacks (that said, there have hardly been any new WaPo and NYT reports on the issue since Trump launched his Syrian attack).
Trump first made the allegation on the eve of the Nov. 8 presidential election, when he said that China could have hacked the emails of his rivals.
“If you don’t catch a hacker, okay, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking,” the president said in an interview with CBS “Face the Nation.” “(It) could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups.”
Trump on election hacking: “It’s very hard to say who did the hacking. With that being said, I’ll go along with Russia. Could’ve been China” pic.twitter.com/Yitp5YqdTs
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 30, 2017
Over the past 6 months, Trump has been dismissive of Intel Community allegations that Moscow hacked the emails to help Trump win the election. During the Sept 26 presidential debate with Clinton, Trump said China was one of many actors that could have been behind the hack, including “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” Like Russia, China is a longstanding cybersecurity adversary of the United States.
Curiously, Trump’s refocusing on China as a potential hacker comes at a time when the White House has pivoted away from improving relations with Russia, which according to Putin spokesman Peskov have “never been worse” and has instead moved to mending and improving ties with Beijing, having softened its criticism of Chinese trade policies as Washington seeks Beijing’s support in diffusing military tensions with North Korea.
As a reminder, before Trump was elected, he pledged to improve relations with Moscow. As Reuters notes, Russia has denied any involvement in the hacks. Lawmakers are currently investigating whether Trump’s campaign team had ties with Russia.