President Donald Trump voiced support Tuesday for US intelligence agencies, a day after he refused to accept their findings on Russia’s election meddling over the denials of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and vowed to take action to prevent further interference.
Reading prepared remarks to reporters at the White House, Trump reiterated that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia and that the country’s efforts had no impact on the final results.
He said that when he returned from the summit with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, he “realized there is some need for clarification” about his remarks on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,'” Trump said. He explained he reviewed a transcript and video of his remarks.
“The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,'” he said. “Sort of a double negative.”
“I think that probably clarifies things pretty good on itself,” Trump said.
During Monday’s news conference, Trump said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia who interfered in the election.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump offered a defiant rebuke of his critics, writing on Twitter: “While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia.”
“Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!” he proclaimed.
Trump’s self-defense, however, was unlikely to quell the uproar caused by Monday’s news conference.
The conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal declared the news conference “a personal and national embarrassment” for the President, asserting he’d “projected weakness.” Newt Gingrich, ordinarily a reliable voice of support, wrote on Twitter the remarks were “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”
Members of Congress, including several powerful Republicans, also distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks and aligned themselves with US intelligence estimates that Russia interfered in the election.
Trump surprised at fierce criticism
Immediately after Monday’s news conference, Trump’s mood was buoyant, people familiar with the matter said. He walked off stage in Helsinki with little inkling his remarks would cause the firestorm they did, and was instead enthusiastic about what he felt was a successful summit.
By the time he’d returned to the White House just before 10 p.m. ET on Monday, however, his mood had soured. Predictably, the President was upset when he saw negative coverage of the summit airing on television aboard Air Force One. It was clear he was getting little support, even from the usual places.
He vented to aides traveling with him, including new communications chief Bill Shine and policy aide Stephen Miller. First lady Melania Trump was also aboard and was involved in some of the discussions, but not all of them, the people familiar with the matter said.
Trump, the first lady, Shine and Miller were seen in animated conversation aboard Marine One when they arrived to the White House South Lawn on Monday evening.
A day later, aides are still wondering what the ultimate fallout will be, including whether any senior officials will resign. Those who were not on the trip are waiting to debrief their colleagues later in the day about what transpired behind the scenes.