President Donald Trump affirmed his faith in the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, but stated it had no impact on the outcome.
At the White House on Tuesday, the president also clarified a comment he made during his joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on Monday seeming to dismiss the idea that Moscow would target the U.S. for election interference.
“I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies, always have,” Trump told reporters.
“While Russia’s actions had no impact on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear: I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” he added. “There was no collusion at all.”
Trump: “Let me be totally clear, and I’ve said this many times, I accept our intelligence communities’ conclusion that Russia’s meddling took place. Could be other people also” #tictocnews pic.twitter.com/tpI4si1kIB
— QuickTake by Bloomberg (@QuickTake) July 17, 2018
Trump comments came in the aftermath of a torrent of criticism that he received for seeming to be just as ready to accept Putin’s denial of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections as the intelligence community’s conclusion the rival nation did.
When asked Monday if he would denounce Putin, Trump said, “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
On Tuesday, the president also clarified a remark he made during the Helsinki news conference in which he said he did not see why Russia would interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
In response to a question whether he would denounce Putin over election interference, Trump replied, “(A)ll I can do is ask the question. My people came to me — (Director of National Intelligence) Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.
“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the (Democratic National Committee) server,” he continued. “But I have confidence in both parties.”
Trump had noted that the DNC never turned over the server allegedly hacked into by the Russians for inspection.
The president said Tuesday he meant to say he didn’t see any reason it “wouldn’t be” Russia involved in election meddling.
President Trump: "In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't'…the sentence should have been, 'I don't any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double-negative." pic.twitter.com/wFob1xfzp2
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 17, 2018
“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’ … the sentence should have been, ‘I don’t any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double-negative.”
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky came to Trump’s defense on Tuesday, pointing out even former President Ronald Reagan did not use the occasion of joint media events to attack Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.
“CBS This Morning” host John Dickerson pressed Paul about Trump’s failure to make the moral case against Putin during the news conference.
“I don’t think you’re being fair to the president,” the lawmaker said. “So when President Reagan met with Gorbachev, do you think he listed the litany of Soviet abuses from Stalin on in a one-to-one meeting?”
Sen. Rand Paul Paul says that President Trump "did a good thing" by meeting with Putin and warned his colleagues that it was a "mistake" to "try to turn this into a partisan escapade." https://t.co/GgXmry0YN1 pic.twitter.com/HV7oMgQ1fU
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 17, 2018
Dickerson followed up noting that Reagan used strong rhetoric toward the Soviet Union such as calling it the “evil empire.”
“Reagan didn’t call it an evil empire in a press conference with Gorbachev,” Paul replied.
The senator went on to argue that Trump’s reluctance to criticize Russia’s alleged interference has to do with the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the efforts of Democrats to use it to delegitimize his victory over Hillary Clinton.
“The president has undergone an onslaught of year, year-and-a-half of a partisan investigation accusing him of somehow colluding with the Russians,” Paul said.
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