Trump’s Small Reversal Doesn’t Change Much About His Putin Presser

Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe

President Donald Trump on Tuesday backtracked on what was considered a major offense a day earlier, when he said during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia who meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections.

“Wouldn’t” Trump corrected himself Tuesday, speaking to reporters from the Cabinet Room: “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or, why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

“So you can put that in,” he told reporters. “I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”

It doesn’t.

That remark was one of many in which Trump distanced himself from the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence agencies. In fact, he muddied the waters even more just minutes later on Tuesday.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took pace. It could be other people also,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there.”

A day earlier, Trump said he held “both countries responsible” for Russia’s election interference. (He told CBS News’ Jeff Glor recently that “the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked.”)

“I think that the United States has been foolish,” he said Monday. “I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame.”

Trump on Monday called the Mueller probe into Russian meddling “a disaster for our country.”

“I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated,” Trump said.

He also inaccurately said Monday that “the whole concept of that [Russian election interference] came up perhaps a little bit before but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election.”

In fact, Russian hacking efforts were widely reported before Election Day.

The President also seemed to show some deference to Putin’s denial Monday.

“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said of Putin during the press conference, adding later: “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 and what he did is an incredible offer.”

“I have confidence in both parties,” he said separately, referring to the U.S. intelligence agencies and Putin, though the two parties have completely opposing accounts of Russia’s actions in 2016.

That remark, just like all of Trump’s comments Monday aside from a single word, went unamended Tuesday.

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