Trump says he accepts US intel on Russia — then adds it ‘could be other people also’
President Trump on Tuesday sought to walk back his widely-criticized remarks at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier, saying he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
But Trump muddled the walk-back by saying that “other people” also could have been involved, a statement similar to remarks he’s made in the past casting doubt on Russia’s involvement.
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said, reading from a prepared statement in front of reporters at the White House.
But he added: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
Trump also claimed he misspoke on election meddling during his meeting with Putin, saying he meant to say that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible.
The president said the exact opposite on Monday: “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump said Tuesday he should have said, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”
“It should have been obvious,” he added. “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things.”
In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity after the summit, Trump did not indicate he misspoke.
The president’s latest comments come as he is facing intense pressure from Republicans and Democrats who blasted his refusal to confront Putin over election meddling.
Trump had previously shown no sign he was willing to clarify or take back his comments.
The president tweeted Tuesday morning that his meeting with the Russian leader was “even better” than his summit with NATO allies.
Lawmakers and U.S. allies have said Trump’s performance during his press conference with Putin undercut U.S. officials and provided a propaganda victory for the Russian leader.
The president said he has “full faith and support for America’s intelligence agencies,” even as he repeated his claim that “there is no collusion” between his campaign and Russia to interfere in the election, a matter that is still under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
President Trump: “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia… We are doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018.” pic.twitter.com/ddJcGiJoGI
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 17, 2018