A leftover from this morning’s press conference that shouldn’t go unmentioned. Reince Priebus signaled last weekend that this might be coming, saying after Trump’s briefing with U.S. intel chiefs that Trump now believes “entities in Russia” conducted the DNC and Podesta hackings. “Entities” can mean a lot of things, though, up to and including private hackers freelancing. Trump’s answer here isn’t hedged the same way; he appears to be blaming Russia as a country.
I wonder what spurred the change. Did the briefing actually resolve doubts he had or was it people like Lindsey Graham assuring him that they’re not questioning the legitimacy of his victory by accusing Russia that made him more comfortable with doing so himself? Maybe Trump’s calculation was more utilitarian, that relations between him and U.S. intelligence agencies had already soured so much that he was better off rebuilding goodwill by accepting their judgment instead of digging in on defending Putin. After all, in the end he’s going to pursue whatever policy he wants on Russia whether they’re guilty of the hackings or not. Next month he’ll be telling us that while Russia may have been guilty, it’s time for a fresh start, etc. If Obama could have a “reset,” he’ll say, why can’t I?
It’ll be fun to watch Republican polling on Russia move now that Trump has given the GOP permission to believe the CIA:
Those Democratic numbers are … something. Check out this spike too:
The number of Republicans who see Russia as an adversary is about the same as it was in Dubya’s final year in office. The number of Democrats has more than doubled. That’s trouble potentially for Putin. Although the GOP is softer on Russia right now than Democrats are, they’re still anti-Russia on balance: Republicans split 27/61 when asked if they view Putin favorably or unfavorably and 56 percent of GOPers say that Obama’s new sanctions are “about right” or didn’t go far enough. If Putin and Trump end up as adversaries, Moscow’s going to have an unusually united United States staring back at them.
By the way, possibly related to all of this (or possibly not) is the poll out yesterday from Quinnipiac, which has Trump at 37 percent when people are asked whether they approve of how he’s handling his duties during the transition. They had his favorability at exactly the same number. That’s lower than most other polls have had him, but a more recent poll from YouGov also had him underwater at 45/52. Because the Russia stuff is so polarizing, and because it’s dominated so much of the transition period, it’s probably holding his numbers down among some Democrats and independents who might otherwise be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt early on. The fact that he’s now trying to move past it by acknowledging Russia’s role in the hackings might help with that.