NEW YORK ― President-elect Donald Trump said he believes Russia is behind the hacking of the 2016 election, but continued to downplay the country’s culpability during a news conference on Wednesday.
“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people,” Trump said. He also embraced the idea that Russia would want to help him.
“If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset and not a liability,” he said.
Intelligence officials briefed Trump last week on their findings that Russia had interfered in the election with the intention of boosting his chances. Trump has defended the country against the findings, instead framing the controversy as something only Democrats were interested in discussing.
Trump sidestepped a question about whether his aides had any contact with Russia leading up to the election, and insisted that the country wouldn’t engage in future hacking.
“He shouldn’t be doing it, he won’t be doing it,” he said. “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading it than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it, I don’t believe he’ll be doing it more. Now, we have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia.”
The president-elect also suggested that the Democratic National Committee deserved to get hacked and that the information that came to light through the hacking may have justified the act.
“Hacking is bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked. Look at what was learned from that hacking. That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it,” he said. “That’s a horrible thing. That’s a horrible thing. Can you imagine if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate? It would have been the biggest story in the history of stories and they would have said immediately ‘you have to get out of the race.’ And nobody even talked about it. It’s a very terrible thing.”
Trump also pushed back against reports that Russia had embarrassing information about him.
“I’ll be honest. I think if they did have something, they would have released it, they would have been glad to release it,” he said. “I think, frankly, had they broken into the Republican National Committee, they would have released it, just like they did about Hillary and all of the horrible things her people like Mr. Podesta said about her.”
This post has been updated with Trump’s comments on stopping any future hacking by Russia.