In a major U-turn, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he accepts US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and misspoke when he seemed to say otherwise in a press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after his news conference with Putin found that 55% of registered US voters disapproved of his handling of relations with Russia, while 37% approved.
Trump, who had the opportunity to publicly rebuke Putin during the news conference in Helsinki, instead praised the Russian leader for his “strong and powerful” denial of the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that the Russian state meddled in the election.
Standing alongside Putin in Helsinki, Trump told reporters he was not convinced it was Moscow. “I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.
Trump’s remarks came after he faced a barrage of criticism from his opponents and even from his own party for not backing the American intelligence community’s assessment.
Trump, making what he described as clarifying comments in a meeting with members of Congress, said he meant to say during the Helsinki press conference that he had no reason to think it was anyone other than Russia that interfered in the 2016 election.
Trump said he reviewed a transcript of what he said, and decided to clarify his comments.
He told reporters at the White House that he “believes (in) US Intelligence assessment (that Russian) interference (in elections) took place. I thought that I made myself very clear….I came back and said what’s the big deal?” asserting that he has full faith in the American intelligence agencies.
“We’ll move to aggressively to repeal and stop any interference in our election,” he said.