Putin may have provided Trump with the theory that Russian hackers are too good to get caught

Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Donald Trump during their meeting at the G-20 earlier this month that it couldn’t have been Russia that
hacked into the Democratic National Committee last year because Russian hackers are too good to get caught.
That is according to the New York Times’ David Sanger, who reported Monday that Trump emerged from the meeting telling his aides that Putin had offered “a compelling rejoinder: Moscow’s cyberoperators are so good at covert computer-network operations that if they had dipped into the Democratic National Committee’s systems, they would not have been caught.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the episode aligns with a comment Sunday from new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who said Trump was not convinced that the Russians hacked into the DNC last year because if they did, they wouldn’t have gotten caught.

Trump “said to me yesterday that if the Russians actually hacked this situation, and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it — you would have never had any evidence of that,” Scaramucci said in an interview with CNN. “They’re super confident in their deception skills and hacking.”

The notion that Moscow would have tried to conceal its efforts, however, differs from what experts and intelligence officials have concluded was the main purpose of Russia’s election interference: to sow chaos and undermine the legitimacy of the election, no matter who won.

The Russians “were unusually loud in their intervention,” former FBI Director James Comey said during a House Intelligence Committee hearing in March, two months before he was fired. “It’s almost as if they didn’t care that we knew.”

Comey suggested that Russia may have wanted the US government to tell the public what Russia was doing so as to “amplify” its efforts.

“Their loudness, in a way, would be counting on us to amplify it by telling the American people what we saw,” Comey said, “and freaking people out about how the Russians might be undermining our elections successfully.”

Putin denied last month that the Kremlin had ordered the cyberattacks. But he said that “patriotically minded” Russians, whom he compared to artists, might have taken it upon themselves “to fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”

Trump is still sceptical that the Russians were behind the election hacking. According to Scaramucci, Trump called him from Air Force One on Saturday and “basically said to me, ‘Hey, you know, maybe they did do it, maybe they didn’t do it.'”