Trump: We will react ‘strongly’ to any attempted 2018 election meddling
President Trump on Tuesday vowed to prevent Russia from interfering in this year’s midterm elections, even as he claimed that Moscow had “no impact” on the vote total during his run for president.
“You don’t want your system of votes to be compromised in any way,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. “We won’t allow that to happen. We will counteract it very strongly.”
“We’re doing a very, very deep study and coming out with very strong suggestions on the 2018 election,” he added.
Trump has come under fire from critics who say he is not doing enough to counter Russia.
The president has repeatedly called the investigation into the Kremlin’s election interference a “witch hunt,” even after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russians for spreading misinformation online during the 2016 campaign.
Top intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that Russia will once again try to disrupt U.S. elections again this year.
“It’s highly likely that they will be doing something,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified before the Senate on Tuesday. “We just don’t know how much, and when and where.”
European allies, including Löfven, have also voiced concern about Russia’s desire to interfere in their nations’ election as well.
“We both agree that the result of the election in the country should be decided by nobody else but the voters of the country,” the Swedish leader said when asked if he agrees with Trump’s views.
Trump, however, again voiced skepticism about the effect of Russia’s meddling efforts in the 2016 election.
“The Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever,” he said.
The president acknowledged that “certainly there was meddling,” but said “other countries, maybe other individuals,” and not just Russia, may have been involved.
The intelligence community has concluded that Russia did carry out a sweeping effort to disrupt the 2016 election, but has not made a judgment about whether it affected the result.
U.S. officials have said Moscow targeted 21 states’ voting systems two years ago but did not succeed in changing votes. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has said there is no evidence to suggest that votes or voter rolls were altered.
The president said the administration is exploring the possibility of returning to paper ballots so that foreign adversaries would not be able to hack into the computerized voting systems.
“It’s old-fashioned but it’s always good to have a paper backup system of voting,” Trump said. “It’s called paper. Not highly complex computers, paper. A lot of states are doing that. They’re going to a paper backup. And I think that’s a great idea. But we’re studying it closely.”
Officials from state governments recently met with top DHS officials to discuss their plans to counter Moscow ahead of this fall’s midterms. But some have expressed concern that Trump’s wavering on the question of Russian meddling is hampering his Cabinet’s efforts.
That concern has been echoed by Democrats, and some Republicans, on Capitol Hill.
“There is obviously concern about this ongoing effort by Russia to interfere in our elections,” Coats told senators earlier Tuesday. “The White House is well aware of that, as we all are. Agencies have been tasked to address this.”
Coats acknowledged the administration has yet to put in place a “coherent strategy” to address Russian interference.
Jonathan Easley and Morgan Chalfant contributed. Updated at 5:17 p.m.