‘I was one of the greatest candidates’: Trump implies collusion with Russians was unnecessary to beat Hillary Clinton

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump
Carlos Barria/Reuters

  • President Donald Trump boasted of his prowess as a presidential candidate in response to questions about whether he or his campaign colluded with Russians.
  • Trump accused journalists of failing to appreciate his strength as a presidential candidate.
  • His 2016 campaign, the president implied, did not require Russian assistance.

President Donald Trump boasted of his prowess as a presidential candidate on Wednesday in response to questions about whether he or members of his campaign colluded with Russians in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

When asked by a reporter how he defines collusion, the president, who has repeatedly denied colluding with Russians, pivoted to a defense of his candidacy.

“You’re going to define it for me, OK? But I can tell you, there’s no collusion. I couldn’t have cared less about Russians having to do with my campaign,” he said during an informal press gathering at the White House.

The president went on to accuse journalists of failing to recognize his strength as a candidate, implying that his electoral victory over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton did not rely on Russian interference.

“The fact is – you people won’t say this, but I’ll say it: I was a much better candidate than her,” he said. “You always say she was a bad candidate. You never say I was a good candidate. I was one of the greatest candidates. Nobody else would have beaten the Clinton machine, as crooked as it was. But I was a great candidate. Someday you’re going to say that.”

Kellyanne Conway, a top counselor to the president, has used the same logic to answer questions about possible collusion. Earlier this month she argued that it’s a “fantasy” to believe that the campaign needed Moscow’s help to win the election, arguing that Clinton’s weakness as a candidate led to her defeat.

“The idea that we would have to look any further than Hillary Clinton to beat Hillary Clinton itself is a fantasy,” Conway told CNN. “I didn’t need to talk to anyone in Moscow. … There’s no reason to have gone anywhere outside of Hillary Clinton and how unattractive her policies were, how lacking in vision and connective tissue with the forgotten man and forgotten woman she was.”