President Donald Trump reiterated his “full faith in our intelligence agencies” and pledged to “repel” any future election interference attempts Tuesday, when he clarified his remarks from Monday’s controversial press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
“I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies — always have,” Trump told reporters Tuesday before a meeting with lawmakers at the White House.
“And I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the [2016 U.S. presidential] election, 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,” Trump continued, emphasizing that “there was no collusion — at all.”
Trump fielded intense bipartisan backlash after saying during the Helsinki press conference that he holds “both countries responsible” for Russia’s interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election because “we’re all to blame.” Trump also said Monday that while he has “great confidence in my intelligence people,” he believes that Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.”
When asked during the press conference about Putin’s denials of Russian election interference, Trump replied that Putin “just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
After reviewing a clip of his answer, Trump now claims he misspoke because he meant to say “wouldn’t” instead of “would.”
“And I realized that there is a 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.'”
Trump noted that he has “on numerous occasions” referred to the U.S. intelligence community’s findings “that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.” Trump then took a swing at former President Barack Obama for not “doing anything about” stopping the Russian meddling.
“Unlike previous administrations, my administration has and will continue to move aggressively to [repel] any efforts,” Trump said. “We will stop it. We will repel it — any efforts to interfere in our elections. We are doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018.”
Noting that Obama “was given information just prior to” the 2016 presidential election, Trump rebuked Obama and his officials for deciding “not to do anything about it.”
“The reason they decided that was pretty obvious to all — they thought [2016 Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and they didn’t think it was a big deal,” Trump said. “By contrast, my administration is taking a very firm stance. It’s a very firm stance on a strong action. We’re going to take strong actions to secure our election systems and the process.”
Amid the ongoing backlash to his Helsinki press conference, Trump reminded viewers that he harbors “the strongest respect for our intelligence agencies headed by my people.”
Trump said he chose to meet with Putin “in an attempt to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing humanity” despite knowing it could be poorly received in the U.S.
“My meeting with President Putin was really interesting in so many different ways because we haven’t had relationships with Russia for a long time,” Trump said. “I entered the meeting with the firm conviction that diplomacy and engagement is better than hostility and conflict.”
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