President Trump sought to clarify remarks he made during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday during a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House yesterday.
“So I’ll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies. Always have…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; there’s a lot of people out there,” the President said before a meeting with Republican members of Congress.
“I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript. Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, ‘What is going on? What’s the big deal?’ So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized 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. 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 it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — 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.”
President Trump was asked on Monday whether he believes Russia meddled in the 2016 election and whether he raised the issue with Mr. Putin during their meeting. He responded by appearing to say that he didn’t “see any reason why it would be” Russia that did the meddling.
“But I have — I have confidence in both parties,” the President said. “So 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 added.
That apparent equivocation and the President’s seeming willingness to take President Putin’s word over the word of the U.S. intelligence community prompted sharp rebukes from lawmakers on Capitol, many of them Republicans.
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia…” he added.
“I’ve said a number of times and I say it again, the Russians are not our friends and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs,” said Sen. Ben Sasse.
“I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success,” said South Carolina Republican Congressman and Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy.
The White House continued to defend the President’s walk-back of the comments today. “The president saw a need to clarify the position,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during today’s press briefing.
“He saw how his comments were being interpreted, he looked at the transcript and clarified those comments.” President Trump “had misspoken and wanted to clarify what he said,” she added.
The President struck a defiant tone this morning on Twitter despite clarifying the comments yesterday however, implying he will be criticized no matter the actions he takes.
“Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!” he wrote.
Photo by The White House