US President Donald Trump said China could have hacked the emails of Democrats’ email accounts during the 2016 presidential election. Trump made the statement during an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation that aired on Sunday (30 April), but did not offer any evidence to support the allegation.
When asked if he believed that Russia attempted to interfere in the US election, Trump said: “That, I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“If you don’t catch a hacker, okay, in the act, it’s very hard to say who did the hacking,” he continued. “With that being said, I’ll go along with Russia. Could’ve been China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.
“We have to find out what happened. I’d love to find out what happened. I can tell you one thing. [It] had nothing to do with us. Had nothing to do with this, and everyone knows it. And by the way, even my enemies on your show said, ‘We haven’t found anything that the Trump campaign did wrong.'”
The steady release of damaging internal emails from various top Democrats’ accounts by whistleblowing outfit WikiLeaks in the run-up to the election plagued Hillary Clinton’s campaign last year.
In October 2016, Washington formally accused Russia of orchestrating the cyberattacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and various other political organisations in an attempt to influence the election outcome.
Earlier this year, US intelligence agencies accused President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating a complex, multi-faceted “influence campaign” designed to hurt Clinton’s campaign and boost Trump’s chances of winning the presidency.
“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump,” the intelligence report said.
It also warned that Russia would likely “apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including US allies and their election processes”.
Following the US election hacking, many European countries including Germany and France have bolstered their own cyber defences against possible attacks ahead of their own elections. However, many countries ranging from Norway and Ukraine to the Czech Republic and Italy have reported cyberattacks targeting their digital infrastructure in recent months.
Russia slammed the report as “baseless and amateurish” and denied any involvement in the cyberattacks.
Trump, however, has continued to voice doubts over Russia’s involvement in the election. During the first presidential debate with Clinton in September, Trump said: “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Trump’s latest comments come amid mounting tensions between the US and North Korea as it pushes forward with its missile and nuclear weapons programmes. North Korea’s main ally – China – is seen as a vital potential US ally to defuse military tensions.
During the CBS interview, host John Dickerson also questioned the president about allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to boost his chances. US lawmakers are currently conducting probes into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
“The concept of Russia with respect to us is a total phony story,” he said. “Of course, it’s a total phony story.”
Trump shifted the conversation to Democrats involved with Clinton’s campaign and their ties with Russia.
“Well, I have a problem,” he said. “You have [Clinton’s former campaign chairman John] Podesta, who, by the way, I understand has a company with his brother in Russia. Hillary’s husband makes speeches in Russia. Hillary did a uranium deal with Russia.
“Nobody ever talks about that. But I don’t know — because the FBI was not allowed by Podesta to go in and check all of the records on their servers and everything else that you would normally have to check.”