Trump Attempts Absurd Walk Back Of Post-Summit Comments
One day after an embarrassing performance at the Helsinki Summit, President Trump an absurd, completely unbelieve walk back of things the entire world heard him say loud and clear.
Just over twenty-four hours after a post-summit press conference in Helsinki where he essentially defended Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia against charges of interference in the 2016 Presidential election, President Trump attempted to walk back those comments with a scripted statement that is quite simply too absurd to be believed:
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 his use of 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.
More from The Washington Post:
Seeking to quell mounting criticism after the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump on Tuesday said he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia sought to influence the 2016 election.
But Trump also floated without evidence the possibility that other actors may have been involved, a conclusion that is not backed up by the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. A lot of people out there,” Trump said, reading mostly off a sheet of paper, before a meeting with Republican members of Congress at the White House.
“There was no collusion at all,” he added, dismissing the notion that his campaign coordinated with Moscow in 2016.
Trump also said he misspoke at the joint news conference with Putin on Monday and that he meant to say he didn’t have any reason to doubt Russia interfered in the election.
“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative,” Trump told reporters. “So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
Trump on Tuesday did not address, however, his assertion at Monday’s news conference that “I have confidence in both parties” in response to a question about whether he believed Putin’s denial or the intelligence committee’s conclusion about Russia’s interference in the election.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) immediately seized on Trump’s remarks, saying the president “tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday.”
“It’s twenty-four hours too late, and in the wrong place,” Schumer said in a tweet.
Trump’s remarks followed a morning tweet in which he blamed the media for negative coverage of Monday’s news conference and said that his meeting with Putin had gone “even better” than a meeting with NATO allies the week before.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia,” Trump wrote, referring to his efforts to increase defense spending by U.S. allies. “Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!”
Here are Trump’s tweets from this morning, which were sent prior to the statement he made this afternoon:
I had a great meeting with NATO. They have paid $33 Billion more and will pay hundreds of Billions of Dollars more in the future, only because of me. NATO was weak, but now it is strong again (bad for Russia). The media only says I was rude to leaders, never mentions the money!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2018
While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2018
To say that the President’s attempt to walk back his comments at yesterday’s press conference amount to little more than an absurd and laughable attempt at damage control for a performance that was so bad that even the people at Fox News Channel could barely find a way to defend is an understatement. The record of what the President said during that hour-long news conference is there for everyone to see, and was witnessed around the world, walking it back now is quite simply too little too late. Not only did the world hear what he said loud and clear, but he repeated it in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that aired last night and the message he sent out this morning on Twitter make it clear that he was still standing by what he said as of this morning. It wasn’t until this afternoon after his National Security Council had apparently spent the morning meeting in an effort to come up with something he could say that would limit the damage he has done to American national interests and our alliances in Europe. The result was a prepared statement that the President read from the Cabinet room in what looked for all the world like a hostage video rather than a genuine statement on his part.
Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the explanation that the President tried to offer was the idea that he meant to say yesterday that he didn’t see any reason why it would not be Russia who interfered in the election. Even as he did that, though, the President could not help but add in the comment that it also could have been others who responsible for the hacking of Democratic computer systems and to state, yet again without evidence, that we all know that there was no collusion between his campaign and Russian officials. If there were the slightest possibility that the President had misspoken at the press conference yesterday, then this is something that could have easily been almost immediately corrected either via a White House press release or via Twitter. Instead, it wasn’t until Trump read the statement that was prepared for him that we first heard this absurd idea that he meant to say “would not” instead of “‘would,” an explanation that is also undercut by everything else he said about the allegations regarding Russian interference at the press conference. In other words, only someone who is either completely gullible or incredibly stupid would buy the explanation that the President tried to give today, What he said on Monday evening in Helsinki was clear enough, and made clear that he believed the denials of a former KGB agent over the word of all of his intelligence agencies and two Congressional Committees that have concluded that Russia did in fact attempt to interfere with the Presidential election in 2016.
The President’s attempt to say something he didn’t say in Helsinki is, of course, reminiscent of other times in the past when he has been forced to try to walk back comments he made that proved to be controversial. Perhaps the most memorable of those instances came just under a year ago in the wake of the racist march and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in the death of one woman at the hands of one of the white supremacist protesters. In the immediate aftermath of that tragedy, Trump blamed ‘both sides’ for the violence and refused to directly condemn groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, which was present at the rally, or the broader so-called alt-right movement whose supporters made up the vast majority of the participants. The outrage over these comments was sufficiently broad, even from fellow Republicans in Washington, that the White House was compelled to have Trump deliver a follow-up comment the following Monday that was more measured and emphatic than what he had said before. Whatever damage had been repaired by that statement, though, was short-lived, though, because less than twenty-four hours later when Trump repeated his ‘both sides’ argument in a press conference at Trump Tower in New York. As if that were not enough, Trump doubled-down on the “both sides” argument a month later in a statement that only served to reopen the wounds of the tragedy that had occurred a month before.
Given the fact that what Trump said yesterday in Helsinki is basically the same thing he has been saying for the better part of a year in his effort to undermine the Russia investigation, it seems obvious that it will only be a matter of time before he walks back what he said today and returns to the claim that the entire Russia investigation is “Fake News.” Whether it comes via a Tweet or in another statement to the press, it will inevitably come because it is clear that his statement in Helsinki is an accurate reflection of what he actually believes about the investigation and about the fact that Russia tried, and in some sense of the word succeeded, to influence the 2016 Presidential election. We saw the real Donald Trump in Helsinki yesterday, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. No prepared statement is going to change who he really is.