Despite mounting evidence from an array of sources, Trump has thus far refused to acknowledge that Russian hacking may have played a role in the 2016 election. Instead, Trump has framed the hacks as an excuse being used by Hillary Clinton’s allies and the Democrats to explain their defeat. On Friday morning—a day after falsely claiming that Barack Obama and Clinton didn’t talk about the hacks during the election—he went back on the offensive.
This is a strange response, largely because it’s re-litigating an issue from an election that Trump won. But there’s some logic to it. Trump realizes that Democrats are using the Russians hacks to delegitimize his presidency, so he’s trying to focus the glare on his opponents. He’s playing fast and loose with the truth here—Donna Brazile did not commit a crime—but this is the same playbook he used to great effect during the election: Ignore the source of the hacks and focus on their content.
There’s another possibility though, which is that Trump is trying to cloud the issue in response to attempts to brief members of the Electoral College about the source of the hacks.
This is an appealing interpretation, but it’s one that also assumes that Trump sees this kind of partisanship as a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. It’s certainly possible that Trump will change his tune and pick up the normal political playbook after the Electoral College votes—that playbook dictates that Trump support an independent investigation into the hacks while denying they had any effect on the election. But it seems more likely that Trump has rightfully decided that hard partisanship benefits him more than political norms.