Trump says Russia had ‘no impact’ on 2016 election votes

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Russia had “no impact on our votes” in the 2016 presidential contest but vowed to combat any attempts to meddle in the 2018 midterms.

It was Trump’s most forceful attempt to date at dissuading Russia from continuing its election interference efforts, though he again suggested that other countries may have been involved and continued to insist the final results were not affected by Moscow.

“Certainly there was meddling. Probably there was meddling from other countries,” Trump said during a news conference alongside Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

The President said it was important to guard against meddling efforts during the midterm contests.

“I think you have to be really watching very closely. We won’t allow that to happen,” Trump said. “We’re doing a very, very deep study and we’re coming out with, I think, some very strong suggestions on the ’18 election.”

The President has consistently shrugged off intelligence assessments that Moscow attempted to sway the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton. He’s called the investigation into the interference, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, a “hoax.” And he’s said he takes Russian President Vladimir Putin at his word when he denies having ordered the meddling campaign.

That approach has worried some lawmakers, who say the administration isn’t doing enough to prevent election interference in the future. A week ago, Adm. Mike Rogers — director of the National Security Agency and Cyber Command chief — told a congressional panel that he has not been granted the authority by Trump to disrupt Russian election hacking operations where they originate.

“It has not changed the calculus or the behavior on behalf of the Russians,” Rogers said about the US response to Russia’s cyber threat to date.

This week, it was revealed the US State Department has yet to use tens of millions of dollars in funding that lawmakers allocated to counter Russian misinformation and propaganda, even as intelligence chiefs have warned that Russia is actively targeting the 2018 midterm elections.

But on Tuesday, US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said there are ongoing conversations between Trump and appropriate US agencies about how to counter the threat of Russian attacks on the midterm elections.

“It is a whole of government approach, I have discussed it personally with the President of the United States and he has said I assume you are doing your jobs,” Coats said.

Asked by a Swedish journalist whether he was concerned Russia could have an effect on the midterms, Trump insisted during his news conference that the US would prevent any election interference efforts.

“No, because we’ll counteract whatever they do,” he said.

He encouraged states to include an analog backup to avoid attempts to hack electronic systems.

“You have to be very vigilant. One of the things we’re learning, it’s always good to have a paper backup system of voting. Called paper. Not highly complex computers. Paper,” he said.