The White House has denied that President Trump said "Russia is no longer targeting US elections", after video emerged from a Wednesday cabinet meeting in which Trump says "No" after being asked "Is Russia still targeting the US?"
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the comments during a press Wednesday briefing, saying she spoke with Trump who said he was "saying 'no' to answering questions" and not to the reporter's question itself. He does believe that they would target certainly U.S. election," Sanders adding that "the threat still exists."
"We believe that the threat still exists, which is why we are taking steps to prevent it," Press Sec. Sanders tells @CeciliaVega of Russian targeting U.S. https://t.co/MujCvtizb0 pic.twitter.com/YkTshHrU84— ABC News (@ABC) July 18, 2018
The Daily Mail's David Martosko points out that it's difficult to discern whether Trump was saying "No" to that question, or was making a blanket response saying "no" more questions, as he quickly says "Thank you very much - no" to another person right after being asked.
Seeing video, it's not clear if he was saying "no" to the question about whether Putin is still targeting the US. "Thank you very much" is a signal to an aide to make the press leave. Was he answering an aide's question? Depends on who was standing where. pic.twitter.com/uThQuISTrh— David Martosko (@dmartosko) July 18, 2018
As we reported earlier, Trump's comments again sparked outrage - as a denial that Russia continues to target elections flies in the face of his own director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, who said after Trump's Helsinki press conference that Russia's hostile activities against the U.S. and its allies are "ongoing."
Coats also underscored the intelligence agencies' worry that Russia is prepared to interfere with this fall's midterm elections. "We have been clear in our assessment of Russian meddling in our 2016 elections and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy," Coats said in a statement.
Democrats on Capitol Hill pounced on Trump's latest comments, claiming they provide even more evidence that the president is too close to Putin.
"Mr. President. Walk this back too," Chuck Schumer tweeted in response to Trump's claim that Russia is no longer targeting the U.S.
As The Hill noted, it was clear Wednesday that the negative media coverage Trump's meeting with Putin has bothered him. Trump sat with his arms folded when speaking about the issue during the Cabinet meeting. When asked whether Russia is still targeting the U.S., the president indicated he did not want to answer by telling reporters "thank you" before quietly saying the word "no."