In an attempt to "clarify" his remarks during yesterday's summit with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump made a brief closed-door address to a handful of Republican members of Congress amid mounting criticism from allies and foes alike about his failure to publicly condemn Russian election meddling.
The president said that after reviewing the clip of the summit press conference, he decided he needed to clarify and did so by saying that has "full faith" in US intelligence agencies, while noting that he also entered the Putin meeting with conviction that engagement is better than hostility, that dialog with Russia is very important and that Helsinki was his "most successful visit" yet and that he is working hard with US allies.
"Let me begin by saying that, once again, the full faith and support for America's intelligence agencies, I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies," Trump told reporters.
But more importantly, and as some expected, Trump appears to have folded, saying that he misspoke yesterday and that his past comment on US intel needs clarification, he said that he now "accepts the intelligence conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election" but he denied that his campaign had colluded in the effort.
"Let me be totally clear in saying that — and I've said this many times, I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also."
As for the "clarification", Trump said the following: "I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave and I realize that there is need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn't,” Trump said. “In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word would instead of wouldn't. The sentence should have been, ‘I don't see any reason why I wouldn't’ or ‘why it wouldn't be Russia.’”
“So just to repeat it, I said the word would instead of wouldn't and the sentence should have been — and I thought I would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video,” he continued. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
Trump said he meant to say "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia," instead of "would" during the controversial Helsinki summit pic.twitter.com/R74brNEVR2— POLITICO (@politico) July 17, 2018
Finally, there will be no thaw in US-Russia relations, with Trump saying that the sanctions on Russia will "remain in place. We are not lifting."
Full clip below:
Trump received bipartisan rebuke on Monday for failing to support the US Intelligence Community's assessment of Russian hacking during the 2016 election. Some current and former government officials have even called for an intervention, stopping just short of the word "coup."
Early Monday, former CIA Director John Brennan lashed out, tweeting "Donald Trump's press performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes and misdemeanors. It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???"
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Hours later, former FBI Director James Comey issued a call to "stand up":
"This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country," adding "Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this president."
This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country. Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this president.— James Comey (@Comey) July 16, 2018
Meanwhile Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee - who said he would award the Purple Heart to disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok - only to later regret his words, called for the military to step in and stage a coup:
Where are our military folks ? The Commander in Chief is in the hands of our enemy! https://t.co/3eF7OLKEdN— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) July 16, 2018