Donald Trump sought to reverse course on Tuesday, after top Republicans scrambled to distance themselves from his behavior in his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Even then, Trump could not resist muddying the waters further. Speaking to reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the president stated that he accepted the assessment of US intelligence agencies that Russiainterfered in the 2016 US election – and then, moments later, cast doubt on who was responsible. “Let me be totally clear in saying that … I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said, reading from a prepared script. He then added: “It could be other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.” On Monday, Trump met Putin with only interpreters in attendance for two hours then held a press briefing in which he sided with the Kremlin and against US intelligence services.
Back on US soil, Trump claimed the fury that greeted his display was the result of a misspoken word. Citing the transcript of his remarks, Trump said his assertion that he did not see “any reason why it would be Russia” behind election inference should have been: “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’tbe Russia.”
“So you can put that in,” he said.
Trump said much more in Helsinki. Standing beside Putin, he 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.” He also repeated conspiracist-tinged complaints about a Democratic National Committee server and the FBI.