Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded for the first time that perhaps computer hackers from his country actually had worked to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The concession comes as the Trump administration is preparing to restore Russian diplomats’ access to two luxury East Coast vacation properties a few months after the Obama administration took them away as punishment for Russian interference in the election. Speaking to reporters in St. Petersburg, Putin continued to insist that there had been no government-sponsored effort to attack Clinton and the Democratic National Committee — a claim the entire U.S. Intelligence Community rejects. However, he said, “patriotic” Russian hackers might have taken it upon themselves to stand up for their country against someone, as Putin put it, “who say bad things” about it.
“We are not doing this on the state level,” Putin declared. However, he said, there’s no accounting for what private citizens who also happen to be highly skilled computer hackers might decide to do in a bout of patriotic fervor.
Comparing hackers to “artists,” whose decisions are unpredictable, he said, “If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view.”