As President Trump was slammed with criticism from both Democrats and Republicans alike about his Monday denial of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, he sought to “clarify” his remarks a day later — a move that received attention from elected officials.
On Monday, standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said he saw no reason why Putin — who also said during the event that he wanted Trump to win — would have wanted to influence the US election.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people,” Trump said Monday, even as he cast doubt on American intelligence agencies. “But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
But on Tuesday, Trump walked back his remarks. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said that he was initially puzzled over the criticism, and that after referring to a transcript and video clip of the presser, he could see where the confusion laid.
President Trump: ?I don?t see any reason why it wouldn?t be Russia? We are doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018.? pic.twitter.com/ddJcGiJoGI— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 17, 2018
“I came back and I said, ‘What is going on? What’s the big deal?’ So I got a transcript, I reviewed it — I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious — I thought it would have been obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. 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 it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
Trump also said he supported the American intelligence community’s findings: “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said Tuesday, but then immediately added: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
Several Democrats still seemed unsettled after Trump’s remarks Tuesday. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the president was trying to ‘‘squirm away’’ from his comments alongside Putin.
‘‘It’s 24 hours too late and in the wrong place,’’ Schumer said.
Meanwhile, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said that Trump’s comment Tuesday “embarrasses our nation even further.”
“After watching the President cower in front of Putin, the American people now deserve to know what Trump will do now.”
President Trump?s attempt to walk back the dangerous, disgraceful & damaging show of his Blame America First policy embarrasses our nation even further. After watching the President cower in front of Putin, the American people now deserve to know what Trump will do now.— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) July 17, 2018
Senator Richard Blumenthal also said that Trump’s comments were “too little, too late.”
Trump's backhanded retraction? too little, too late, too far away? fails to undo the damage to our national security.— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) July 17, 2018
Senator Bill Nelson shed disbelief on the president’s remarks.
If the president really misspoke, he would have corrected it immediately. He didn?t misspeak - and we need to know: What does Russia have on our president? What is Putin hanging over his head? What is going on with a U.S. president who believes Putin over our own intel community? pic.twitter.com/KwiEPQfkVh— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) July 17, 2018
Senator Tammy Duckworth also said she didn’t believe Trump.
This would have been good to tell Vladimir Putin yesterday?— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) July 17, 2018
?but I don?t believe you because you said immediately after that it ?could be other people also.?
No, it couldn?t. https://t.co/nKvNWRVpIA
Elected officials weren’t the only ones criticizing the Tuesday remarks. CNN political reporter Dana Bash immediately afterward said Trump’s excuse made the situation even worse because it went against the president’s usual blowhard demeanor.
“That is about as far of a stretch as any one of us can imagine,” Bash said. “I guess he gets points for being creative there.”