Why did Trump refuse to acknowledge Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election? Byron York takes up this question. He concludes:
Trump’s problem is that he has always refused, or been unable, to separate the two. One is about national security and international relations, while the other is about Donald Trump.
The president clearly believes if he gives an inch on the what-Russia-did part — if he concedes that Russia made an effort to disrupt the election — his adversaries, who want to discredit his election, undermine him, and force him from office, will take a mile on the get-Trump part.
This is a plausible explanation. I suspect Trump’s refusal is more about not wanting his victory over Hillary Clinton discredited than about any real fear that acknowledging Russian interference would undermine his current status or force him out of office.
I’m confident Trump understands that only evidence that he colluded in Russia’s interference would jeopardize his presidency. The fact of Russian interference poses no threat. At most, it slightly undercuts the magnitude of his stunning 2016 accomplishment.
So collusion is the real issue, as Trump frequently recognizes. By now, it may be a non-issue except for partisan Democrats and the media.
And here we get to an irony. By refusing to agree that Russia interfered, Trump helps keep the collusion narrative alive. For example, the lead editorial in today’s Washington Post blares “Mr. Trump just colluded with Russia.”
It’s a stupid headline and a stupid editorial. No surprise, that.
But why fuel the narrative? I think it’s partly due to the “never give an inch” mentality, as Byron says, and mostly due to an ego that can’t allow his 2016 victory to be diminished.
There may be another related element at work. Byron writes:
[I]n light of special counsel Robert Mueller’s decision to indict 12 Russian intelligence agents on Friday before the Monday summit, the president. . .knew reporters would want to hear him specifically affirm Mueller’s allegation that the Russian agents hacked the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign.
The desire, out of sheer perversity, not to say what reporters wanted to hear might well have contributed to Trump’s statement. If so, I admire the instinct but, in this case, not the result.