One element of the deny, deflect, distract, accuse tactic when employed by Trump is his instinct for the accusation against his opponent to tie back to the original denial that he has done anything wrong. See The Trumpian Way for details.
For example, in denying wrongdoing with his slippery accusation about Obama's place of birth, Trump progressed to an accusation that Hillary Clinton was responsible for the accusation. That accusation served an important role - to replace the frame of whether or not Trump made the accusation with Clinton and whether or not she made the accusation. After that point, no amount of fact checking can remove the frame. At worst, the accusation can leave an open question - maybe it was Trump, but maybe it was Clinton.
Trump has been rather desperately applying his customary tactics in the current Trump/Russia investigations. His current DDDA tactic resorts to accusing HRC of working with the Russians. No surprise there. But during the 2016 campaign, the playing field was a bit different. Though Clinton her campaign accused Russia of meddling and the U.S. intelligence agencies made that finding, the fact of Russian interference had not caught on in the popular imagination as much as it has today. So Trump's on-the-fly reaction during the final debate is telling:
"TRUMP: That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders, OK? How did we get on to Putin?
...[back and forth and other topics]
Now we can talk about Putin. I don't know Putin. He said nice things about me. If we got along well, that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.
He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president. And I'll tell you what: We're in very serious trouble, because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads -- 1,800, by the way -- where they expanded and we didn't, 1,800 nuclear warheads. And she's playing chicken. Look, Putin...
WALLACE: Wait, but...
TRUMP: ... from everything I see, has no respect for this person.
CLINTON: Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States.
TRUMP: No puppet. No puppet.
CLINTON: And it's pretty clear...
TRUMP: You're the puppet!
CLINTON: It's pretty clear you won't admit...
TRUMP: No, you're the puppet.
CLINTON: ... that the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do, and that you continue to get help from him, because he has a very clear favorite in this race.
So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We've never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election. We have 17 -- 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing.
WALLACE: Secretary Clinton...
CLINTON: And I think it's time you take a stand...
TRUMP: She has no idea whether it's Russia, China, or anybody else.
CLINTON: I am not quoting myself.
TRUMP: She has no idea.
CLINTON: I am quoting 17...
TRUMP: Hillary, you have no idea.
CLINTON: ... 17 intelligence -- do you doubt 17 military and civilian...
TRUMP: And our country has no idea.
CLINTON: ... agencies.
TRUMP: Yeah, I doubt it. I doubt it.
CLINTON: Well, he'd rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely...
TRUMP: She doesn't like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way.
WALLACE: Mr. Trump...
TRUMP: Excuse me. Putin has outsmarted her in Syria.
WALLACE: Mr. Trump...
TRUMP: He's outsmarted her every step of the way.
WALLACE: I do get to ask some questions.
TRUMP: Yes, that's fine.
WALLACE: And I would like to ask you this direct question. The top national security officials of this country do believe that Russia has been behind these hacks. Even if you don't know for sure whether they are, do you condemn any interference by Russia in the American election?
TRUMP: By Russia or anybody else.
WALLACE: You condemn their interference?
TRUMP: Of course I condemn. Of course I -- I don't know Putin. I have no idea.
WALLACE: I'm not asking -- I'm asking do you condemn?
TRUMP: I never met Putin. This is not my best friend. But if the United States got along with Russia, wouldn't be so bad.
Let me tell you, Putin has outsmarted her and Obama at every single step of the way. Whether it's Syria, you name it. Missiles. Take a look at the "start up" that they signed. The Russians have said, according to many, many reports, I can't believe they allowed us to do this. They create warheads, and we can't. The Russians can't believe it. She has been outsmarted by Putin.
And all you have to do is look at the Middle East. They've taken over. We've spent $6 trillion. They've taken over the Middle East. She has been outsmarted and outplayed worse than anybody I've ever seen in any government whatsoever.
WALLACE: We're a long way away from immigration, but I'm going to let you finish this topic. You got about 45 seconds.
TRUMP: And she always will be.
CLINTON: I -- I find it ironic that he's raising nuclear weapons. This is a person who has been very cavalier, even casual about the use of nuclear weapons. He's..."
Sure, Trump often uses repetition for effect and, in the debate, provides several examples of areas where "Putin outsmarted Clinton or Clinton+Obama", but if, at the time, Trump knew that Putin was responsible for the hack of the Clinton campaign in 2016 and the distribution of the emails, then the accusation fits perfectly into the frame of blaming the Democrat because she and her campaign were outwitted by Putin every step of the way - not only by being vulnerable to the hack, but by not being able to prove that Putin was also responsible for the distribution of the emails.
Though this analysis is not proof of anything, the instinctive Trump pattern of tying the accusation he makes against Clinton back to the subject of the original denial (No puppet, no puppet) suggests that Trump knew,which, of course, would mean that he and his team were guilty of collusion with Russia on the hack and distribution of Clinton campaign emails in the 2016 election.