A day after President Trump's remarks alongside President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia led to harsh criticism, Mr. Trump said that he accepts the findings of American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election ...
WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Tuesday that he had misspoken a day earlier in Helsinki, Finland, when he appeared to take the word of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies on Russian election meddling in 2016. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he “accepts” those findings.
Mr. Trump said the misunderstanding arose from an awkward attempt to use a “double negative.”
“The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative,” he said. “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself. I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.”
Mr. Trump had been criticized even by many in his own party for rejecting the assessments of American intelligence and law enforcement. In walking back those remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he reviewed the transcript from the joint news conference on Monday and he “realized that there is a need for clarification.”
Mr. Trump emerged from talks with Mr. Putin on Monday and publicly challenged the conclusion of his own intelligence agencies about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and said the Russian president was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” Mr. Trump also said that he saw no reason why Russia would have been behind the election hacking.
“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump said, “In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’”
The president also said, “I have full faith in our intelligence agencies.” And he pledged his administration would aggressively try to prevent Russian efforts to interfere in the upcoming midterm elections in November.
As Mr. Trump said he had “full faith” in his intelligence agencies, the lights went out and he looked around, confused. “Must be the intelligence agencies,” he joked.
The president spoke ahead of a White House meeting with Republican members of Congress about taxes. Mr. Trump, who has referred to himself as a “very stable genius,” rarely corrects what he says and more often blames the news media for making up “fake news.”
Mr. Trump’s comments in Helsinki came just a few days after the special counsel investigating the election interference announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials for their roles in hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. And on Monday, the Justice Department charged a Russian woman for operating as a foreign agent and accused her of working with Americans in a Russian effort to influence American politics.
Democrats and many Republicans have criticized Mr. Trump for what has been described as his unprecedented deference to the Russian president during a joint news conference on Monday after the two leaders met alone for two hours.
Mr. Coats, the director of national intelligence, pushed back on Mr. Trump’s comments on Monday and defended the intelligence findings. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” Mr. Coats said in a rare public statement.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said on Tuesday that there is “indisputable evidence” that Russia tried “to impact” the 2016 election. Mr. McConnell, speaking during a news conference, also addressed European countries and said that members of the Senate “understand the Russian threat.” Mr. McConnell also reassured Europeans that Americans view them as friends. He said, “The Russians are not.”
“I just think it was important for our friends and allies to hear from us,” Mr. McConnell said.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan said earlier on Tuesday that “the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”
Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.
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