As President Donald Trump disembarked from Air Force One after his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he was enraged to find himself amid a maelstrom of criticism with few of his usual standbys in his corner.
Back in the West Wing, staffers were in crisis.
According to a Tuesday Vanity Fair report, the atmosphere was “funereal,” one source saying this was the “nightmare scenario.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton reportedly thought the comments unwise, but felt that it would make Trump look weak and silly if he retracted them.
Chief of staff John Kelly had no such qualms. Furious, Kelly reportedly told Trump that the comments would get him in hot water with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and sprang into action, calling around to lawmakers on Capitol Hill to get them to coerce Trump to walk back his statements.
According to a Tuesday NBC report, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also used some capital to get Trump to retract his statements. In a three-way Oval Office meeting, they reportedly urged him to “make clarifications” to his remarks from Helsinki.
Trump did an awkward pseudo-retraction on Tuesday, blaming his refusal to disavow Putin for the Russian hacking of the 2016 election on a grammatical error.