Bolton, McMaster present contrast on Russian hacking

- Maret 23, 2018

John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s pick to replace H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, could bring a vastly different approach on Russia’s election meddling to the White House.

In their public comments, McMaster and Bolton have presented a stark contrast in their views on Moscow’s involvement in the hacks and online trolling that roiled the 2016 presidential election. While McMaster has taken a hard-line stance in blaming Moscow for orchestrating the digital disruption campaign, Bolton has made headlines by casting doubt on Russia's role.

In fact, it was McMaster's remarks on the subject that caused his strained relationship with the president to spill into public view.

Speaking at a February conference in Munich, McMaster proclaimed that evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections was “incontrovertible.”

Trump lashed out on Twitter in response: “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!”

Conversely, Bolton — a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration — has cast doubt on the evidence linking Russia to the Democratic National Committee hack, suggesting that the Obama administration was blaming the Kremlin for political purposes.

In December 2016, when Bolton was being floated as the possible deputy secretary of state, the former diplomat suggested that the digital footprints left behind at the DNC may have been a “false flag.”

“If you think the Russians did this, why did they leave fingerprints?” he asked during a Fox News interview.

“We just don’t know,” Bolton said. “But I believe that the intelligence community has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.”

Bolton later clarified that he did not mean to imply that the Obama administration had planted fake evidence. And he has since changed his tune, acknowledging Moscow played a part.

Still, his remarks echoed Trump’s own approach to the intelligence community’s conclusions. Trump has continued to equivocate on the topic and has rarely stated definitively that Russia was behind the digital intrusions at the DNC and Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.

“As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” Trump said at his first news conference as president. “I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

The president has also regularly accused intelligence agencies of using information to damage him politically.

And just last November, after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said: “Every time [Putin] sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe — I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

After that meeting, Bolton did say he thought Putin had "looked Donald Trump directly in the eye and lied to him."

"Everyone who has looked at the classified information says there's no doubt the Russians tried to affect the election," Bolton said in a Fox News interview. "That's something that should be unacceptable to all Americans."


 

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