When Donald Trump sat down face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday for a summit in which he seemed to willingly allow the Russian leader to dominate him — a performance that former CIA Director John Brennan on Twitter called "nothing short of treasonous" — he was sitting across from the man who Trump knew had personally ordered the massive cyber-attack on the 2016 presidential election, according to new revelations published on Wednesday.
On January 6 of 2017, a full two weeks before his inauguration and 18 months ahead of his "summit" meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump met with a group of the country's top intelligence officials who showed him highly classified evidence, including intercepted text messages and emails from high-level Russian military officers, proving that Putin personally ordered and authorized the election hacking operation, according to the bombshell report by the New York Times.
Despite being shown the extremely sensitive intelligence material, Trump only "grudgingly" accepted the findings, the Times reported. But over the next year and a half, including at a press conference following his private meeting with Putin, as Time reported, Trump continued to deny or express skepticism that the Russian government — much less Putin himself — was behind the election attack.
The evidence Trump was shown at the January 6, 2017, meeting at Trump Tower in New York City included, according to The Times, "stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services," as well as information from "several human sources (who) had confirmed Mr. Putin's own role."
One of those human sources was so highly sensitive that the CIA had not revealed the source's identity even in intelligence briefings for President Barack Obama during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Times report said.
Despite viewing the evidence of Putin's direct involvement 18 month ago, Trump has repeatedly branded the Russia cyber-attack a "hoax," and "fake news," as the Washington Post reported.
Following his meeting with Putin on Monday, Trump said that he asked the Russian president if his country had interfered in the 2016 election, and cited what he called Putin's "extremely strong and powerful" denial, as CNN reported.
But according to Wednesday's Times report, even as Trump was listening to Putin's "powerful" denial, he knew based on evidence presented to him 18 months earlier that Putin was lying when he denied Russia's role.