Trump Says Russia May Meddle in Election—to Favor Democrats

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he is “very concerned” that Russia will interfere in the upcoming congressional elections -- to help the Democrats.

Just eight days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin stood beside Trump in Helsinki and said he favored a Trump victory in 2016 as a way to improve relations between their two countries.

Trump provoked an uproar at the Helsinki summit by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. During a press conference in Helsinki, Trump said he didn’t see any reason why Russia would interfere in the presidential election and called Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling a “disaster.”

Trump said in a tweet Tuesday that he is “very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election.” But he said, without offering evidence, “they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

U.S. intelligence agencies have found that Russia in 2016 launched an effort to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and ultimately to help Trump win. This month, Mueller obtained indictments of 12 Russian officials in the GRU military intelligence agency for allegedly orchestrating the hacks of Democratic party organizations and Democratic officials. Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt.”

Controversy over Trump’s messages on Russian election interference has renewed calls for additional sanctions on the Putin government.

Two leading U.S. senators said Tuesday they’ll introduce a bipartisan bill to increase U.S. sanctions against Russia that would target Russian debt, as well as the country’s energy and financial sectors.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Bob Menendez said in a joint statement that just as Putin has sought to challenge U.S. power and influence, "the United States must make it abundantly clear that we will defend our nation and not waver in our rejection of his effort to erode Western democracy."

Senators Marco Rubio, a Republican, and Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, are pushing for a vote on a separate bill which would impose new sanctions, including sanctions on debt transactions, for countries interfering in the midterm elections.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.