New White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci cited President Donald Trump as an authoritative source―and initially, an anonymous source―on why Russia probably wasn’t behind last year’s election season interference.
During an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Scaramucci first told host Jake Tapper that he’d recently spoken to someone who assured him that if Russia had been behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta last year―as multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded―then nobody would have ever known about it, because the Russians are so good at it.
“Somebody said to me yesterday, I won’t tell you who, that if the Russians actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it, you would have never had any evidence of them,” Scaramucci said. “Meaning that they’re super-confident in their deception skills and hacking.”
Tapper subsequently challenged Scaramucci’s statement, questioning the credibility of his source.
“Anthony, you’re making a lot of assertions here. I don’t know who this anonymous person is that said that if the Russians had actually done it, we wouldn’t be able to detect it,” Tapper said. Scaramucci then cut in, quickly exposing the source he’d claimed mere seconds earlier that he wasn’t going to name. And it wasn’t some dispassionate, disinterested expert on the ins and outs of cybersecurity or Russian hacking. Rather, it was Trump himself.
“How about it was the president, Jake,” Scaramucci said. “I talked to him yesterday, he called me from Air Force One, and he said, ‘Hey, maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t do it.'”
“But this is exactly the issue here,” Tapper replied. “We have experts, the U.S. intelligence agencies, unanimous, both Obama appointees and Trump appointees, the Director of National Intelligence, the head of the National Security Agency, the head of the FBI. All of these intelligence experts saying Russia hacked the election. They tried to interfere in the election. No votes were changed, but there was this disinformation and misinformation campaign. President Trump is contradicting it, and you’re siding with President Trump.”
Scaramucci denied that he was “siding” with Trump, and then commented on the future of a recently agreed-upon bipartisan legislation to enact new sanctions on Russia, intended as a punishment for the widely-alleged hacking. He said that Trump had yet to decide whether he’ll sign the bill, although the White House has since signaled its approval.
If Scaramucci’s account of his Air Force One phone call with Trump is true, this would be far from the first time the president has disputed the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was behind the DNC and Podesta hacks. During the presidential campaign, he suggested that it could’ve been the work of China instead, or someone sitting in a basement “who weighs 400 pounds.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed earlier this month that Trump accepted his assurance that Russia wasn’t behind the hacks during their meeting at the G20 summit in Germany, although some Trump administration officials later denied it.