Trump appears to claim UK made up Russian interference in 2016 presidential election to 'bait' US into taking its side

Tom Embury-Dennis

Donald Trump has appeared to claim the UK invented Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in order to “bait” the US into opposing Moscow.

The American president shared a tweet by William Craddick, founder of Disobedient Media, a right-wing news outlet which peddles in unverified claims and conspiracy theories.

“Russiagate was designed in part to help the UK counter Russian influence by baiting the United States into taking a hard line against them,” Mr Craddick wrote. “Leaves us all with a more dangerous world as a consequence. Just another episode of the Great Game.”

Though Mr Trump did not explicitly endorse the message he shared on Sunday night, he regularly and almost exclusively retweets messages he agrees with.

It is not clear what “Russian influence” in Britain Mr Craddick was referring to, but the "great game" is likely a reference to the political and diplomatic confrontation between Russia and Britain in the 19th century.

Mr Craddick’s post came in response to a tweet by controversial Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who accused members of her own party of encouraging US aggression towards Russia by suggesting possible ties between Mr Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Ms Gabbard herself appears to be receiving support from Russia. An analysis by NBC News showed sites linked to Russian influence operations celebrated Ms Gabbard’s announcement she was running last month.

(Twitter)

Mr Trump’s endorsement of the explosive claim Britain was involved in a conspiracy to create “Russiagate” – a term commonly understood to refer to Russia’s meddling in the presidential election – represents another extraordinary swipe by the president at the UK.

It came just days after Mr Trump attacked prime minister Theresa May over her Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

Mr Trump’s latest insinuation of Russian innocence over the US presidential election will also exasperate the country's intelligence community, which has concluded the Kremlin interfered to help Mr Trump and damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

The assessment led in part to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the election and potential links between the Trump campaign and Moscow – a wide-ranging probe the president has long castigated as a “witch hunt”.

Mr Trump’s retweet came amid a flurry of tweets on Sunday, in which he called for an investigation into Saturday Night Live’s perceived bias against him, attacked recently deceased Republican senator John McCain, and called on Fox News to reinstate host Jeanine Pirro after she suggested Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar is against the US constitution because she wears a hijab.

The White House and the UK Foreign Office have been contacted for comment.