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Months later, when Congress moved to impose additional penalties on Moscow, Trump opposed the measures fiercely.
“Having Russia in a friendly posture,” he said last month, “is an asset to the world and an asset to our country.” His position has alienated close American allies and often undercut members of his Cabinet — all against the backdrop of a criminal probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Although the issue has been discussed at lower levels at the National Security Council, one former high-ranking Trump administration official said there is an unspoken understanding within the NSC that to raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity, which the president would see as an affront.
Trump’s stance on the election is part of a broader entanglement with Moscow that has defined the first year of his presidency.
• Previously: Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. They sought to convince Trump that he could affirm the validity of the intelligence without diminishing his electoral win, according to three officials involved in the sessions.
More important, they said that doing so was the only way to put the matter behind him politically and free him to pursue his goal of closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.