Hours before the new year, Donald Trump—then still the president-elect—was speaking to a few reporters outside Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida. He was telling them about his doubts that the intelligence community would perform an accurate investigation into the cyberattacks that targeted Democrats in the months leading up to the election.
Trump had often claimed before that it would be difficult or impossible to identify the culprit behind the attacks. The hacker could’ve been anyone, he was fond of saying: Russia, China, or some 400-pound guy in a basement in New Jersey. His earlier claims had been baseless—but this time, Trump promised, he had some evidence to back up his accusations.
“I know a lot about hacking,” Trump said to the reporters, according to The New York Times. “And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else.” He was referring to the intelligence community’s determination that Russia was behind the cyberattacks.
Then, a bombshell: “And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.” Asked what he was talking about, Trump replied, “You’ll find out on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Tuesday and Wednesday came and went without any new information on the cyberattacks from the president-elect. And on Friday, January 6, the intelligence community released a public version of its investigation into Russian interference in the lead-up to the election, which laid the blame for the hacking and the subsequent document leaks squarely at the feet of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
Trump, who was briefed on classified details not included in the public version of the report that same day, lashed out, declaring himself the victim of a “political witch hunt.” He called for a separate investigation, focused on how some classified details from the report were leaked to the press. At a press conference the following week, he got closer than ever to acknowledging Russia’s role—“As for hacking, I think it was Russian”—before tempering the admission with his trademark skepticism. “It could’ve been others also,” he said.
But despite Trump’s clear dissatisfaction with the results of the intelligence report, the secret information he’d promised in December—the details Trump knew that others did not—didn’t seem to materialize.
The White House didn’t respond to questions about Trump’s promise to release new information more than a month ago.
A week after Trump received the classified briefing about Russia’s cyberattacks, he tweeted that he wanted to prepare his own version of the investigation, this time into the hacks themselves, rather than into the media coverage thereof. “My people will have a full report on hacking within 90 days!” Trump wrote just after 6 in the morning.
A request for a White House comment about that investigation—which, based on the timeline in Trump’s tweet, would be released in April—also went unanswered.
(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)