The outlet, citing nearly a dozen people familiar with the briefing, said Trump was shown highly classified information on Jan. 6, 2017, that showed Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a series of cyberattacks meant to sway the election in his favor. The evidence included text messages and emails from Russian military officers and a source close to Putin himself.
Trump was “grudgingly convinced” by the material, the Times reported.
The report comes the same week the president, standing next to his Russian counterpart in Helsinki, rejected a similar assessment from U.S. intelligence agencies and said “we’re all to blame” for poor diplomatic relations between the two countries. He then walked back those claims amid a bipartisan uproar on Tuesday, told a reporter on Wednesday he didn’t believe Russia was still targeting the U.S. and then said on CBS later that evening Putin was only to blame “because he’s in charge of the country.”
The baffling back-and-forth-and-back-again has left lawmakers scrambling, including a growing number of Republicans who have condemned Trump and touted the assessment of American intelligence officials.
The Times says Trump’s knowledge of the Russian effort is not new. During the meeting last year at Trump Tower, former CIA director John Brennan, former national security director James Clapper, NSA director Adm. Michael Rogers and FBI director James Comey all presented the material, describing a stream of information that left them convinced of Putin’s role.
All except for Rogers were later attacked by Trump, who accused them of being loyal to the 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Comey, a longtime Republican and critic of Trump, slammed the president’s statements in Finland and urged voters to elect Democrats in the November midterms, saying Monday “was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country.”
Brennan went a step further, saying Trump’s performance in Helsinki “rises to and exceeds the threshold for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’”
“It was nothing short of treasonous,” the former CIA chief said on Twitter.