Trump Walks Back His Walk Back, Denies Russia Is Trying To Influence 2018 Elections

It took less than twenty-four hours for President Trump to essentially repudiate his purported attempt to walk back the appalling comments he made in Helsinki.

One day after absurdly trying to walk back the comments he made in the initial aftermath of the Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump went back today to contradicting his own intelligence chiefs, seemingly dismissing once again the idea that Russia was involved in interfering in the 2016 election, and denying that Russia is involved in trying to once again interfere in the 2018 elections:

President Trump, who has been under fire for not aggressively confronting Russian President Vladmir Putin over election interference, on Wednesday said he believes Russia is no longer targeting the United States.

“Thank you very much, no,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter about whether Russia is still targeting the United States. He also asserted that no president has been tougher on Russia than him.

“I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, certainly a lot better than the media.” Trump told reporters.

His assessment of Russia’s current aggression is at odds with the views of U.S. intelligence officials. Last week, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said that Russia and other countries are continuing to target American businesses, the government and other institutions and that “the warning lights are blinking red.”

“These actions are persistent. They’re pervasive and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not,” Coats said during a speech at a Washington think tank.

In his remarks, Coats said that the intelligence community continues to see efforts by Russian actors to manipulate U.S. public opinion, including through the use of fake social media accounts. He also sounded the alarm about potential attacks on U.S. infrastructure or the financial system.

Democrats — and some Republicans — immediately took aim at Trump’s remarks, made at the top of a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday.

“Every one of our intelligence agencies — those who are actually led by appointees of President Trump — have said that not only did Russia engage actively in trying to undermine the elections of 2016 against Secretary Clinton and for now-President Trump, but that they are continuing to do so,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on MSNBC. “It is appalling that the president cannot seem to stand up to Vladimir Putin.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said on Twitter that there is a “BIG discrepancy” between Trump’s statement and warning by Coats.

“It’s imperative we get to the bottom of what is going on so we can be prepared to protect ourselves in advance of the 2018 elections,” Graham said. “My personal view: the Russians are at again.”

Trump also addressed the issue in a series of early morning Tweets that clearly seemed to walk back the statements he made yesterday afternoon when he said he accepted the conclusions of his intelligence chiefs regarding Russian election interference and claiming that he misspoke on Monday when he ruled out the idea that Russia had been culpable in such actions:

Trump’s apparent rejection yet again of the idea that Russia was behind the effort to interfere in the 2016 election and that it is clearly trying to do the same with respect to the upcoming midterm election. The evidence for the 2016 interference can be seen in both the statements that have been made by the President’s own intelligence chiefs and by the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as the indictments that Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued against thirteen Russian nationals in March and an additional twelve Russian nationals just this past Friday. With respect to the 2018 elections, there has been considerable evidence that this is exactly what is happening. Back in February, for example, the President’s own Intelligence Chiefs all said before a Congressional Committee that Russia was actively seeking to interfere in the 2018 elections both in ways similar to what it had done two years ago and in new ways designed to sow chaos and doubt about the integrity of the American electoral process. This came a few weeks after the White House itself acknowledged that our electoral process remained as vulnerable to foreign interference as they were before the 2016 election. Despite this, the National Security Agency has reported that it has received no direct orders from the White House to either prepare for or attempt to counteract any effort to interfere in the electoral or political process by Russia or any other foreign power. In other words, the President and his Administration have been dismissive of the idea of future Russian interference for some time now, so today’s comments from the President should hardly come as a surprise.

Trump’s walk back of his walk back is, of course, inevitable. As I said yesterday, his refusal to acknowledge the reality of Russian interference in the 2016 election at the Monday press conference is basically the same thing he has been saying for the better part of a year now, over the course of which he has repeatedly referred to the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and labeled reports about the investigation as “Fake News” no matter how well documented those reports are. Additionally, he has said repeatedly, and even hinted in his walk back yesterday, that any hacking that occurred during the election could have been done by anyone, including the proverbial “400-pound guy in his bedroom” that the President has mentioned frequently in the past. All of this is inconsistent with the facts as we know them, and simply inconsistent with reality. Given that, it’s not surprising that his efforts to walk back the appalling things he said in Helsinki didn’t even last 24 hours. As I said yesterday, “[w]e 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.” Today, he confirmed that.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Donald Trump, National Security, Politicians, Russia, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders stoutly maintained that when Trump said “no,” he meant “no questions, please.”

    12
  2. Franklin says:

    … seemingly dismissing once again the idea that Russia was involved in interfering in the 2016 election …

    I see where he’s rejecting current interference (and yes that’s a big deal), but I don’t see a new quote where he’s rejecting the previous interference.

    3
  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders stoutly maintained that when Trump said “no,” he meant “no questions, please.”

    But if you watch the video he went on to answer more questions…so she is clearly lying. No surprise there. She’s a so-called christian and a Republican…so I would expect nothing else.

    As I said in another thread…the POTUS is refusing to obey his oath of office. He should be immediately removed from office.

    15
  4. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Oh, I know she’s lying. But it was the best she could do on short notice.

    8
  5. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Sarah Huckabee Sanders stoutly maintained that when Trump said “no,” he meant “no questions, please.”

    Well, then, in the past three days he’s said “would” when he meant to say “wouldn’t,” and now he said “no” when he meant to say “no more questions.”

    I wonder, is he suffering from aphasia, Alzheimer’s, some other form of senility, or what? And if he can’t communicate clearly, how can he possibly do his job, whatever the hell it is?

    10
  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think when @MBunge and @JKB and the others drop by, we should ask them to clarify exactly which set of lies they believe? Trump #1 or #2 or #3. . .

    14
  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    From the ABC News reporter who asked the question:

    “Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President,” Vega asked.
    “Thank you very much, no,” he said.
    Vega pressed: “No?! You don’t believe that to be the case?”
    He responded: “No.”
    Vega asked again a third time: “But can you just clarify, you don’t believe that to be the case?”
    The president ignored that question.

    Dennison and SHS lie constantly…it’s what they do. No reason to grant them any credibility on this.

    10
  8. gVOR08 says:

    So Trump said something bad, caught a lot of flack, read a walk back, then took back the walk back. Good to know there are some things in life you can depend on.

    11
  9. Slugger says:

    Let us not be too hasty about condemning things Trump said today, or yesterday, or the day before yesterday. There is a good chance that he’ll say something even more stupendously stupid tomorrow.

    6
  10. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:
    I think he may have denied his earlier denial of a denial of the initial denial. I deny knowing for sure. But we’ll need the cult members to come and clear it up. Just as soon as Hannity’s on.

    5
  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    Sanders also told reporters that Putin asked Trump to hand over various US citizens, including former US ambassador Micahel McFaul, and that Trump is considering granting that request:

    White House: Trump will consider allowing Russia to question investor, former ambassador

    4
  12. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    This was almost as creative as her “John Kelly was in a bad mood because he was expecting bacon and eggs for breakfast and all they served him was cheese and pastries” to rationalize Kelly twitching in anguish while listening to Trump trash Merkel at the NATO festivities.

    I’m waiting for one of the reporters at these briefings–what few of them there are lately–to stand up and scream “Bullshit!!!!!” at the top of his or her lungs.

    2
  13. Slugger says:

    I like the remarks regarding No. Korea. I can hardly wait for the denuclearization; it will be like Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one. The reactions in South Korea to recent events are here:
    http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2018/07/13/2018071301546.html

    1
  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Holy ….
    From your link,

    The idea was “an incredible offer,” Trump said.

    For once I agree with him.

    1
  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I think you meant to say you don’t deny not knowing for sure he didn’t.

    Some years ago Ohio had a ballot initiative along the lines of, ‘Repeal the act to cancel the revocation of the termination…’ and went on through, IIRC, six negations.

    2
  16. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    Trump knows only one meaning for the word “incredible,” and that’s “great.” What do you want to bet he’ll try to do it?

    3
  17. Mister Bluster says:

    I could wait two more days to post this but Jesus might get here before then.
    231 years ago this week.

    Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787
    by James Madison
    Friday, July 20

    Doctor FRANKLIN was for retaining the clause as favorable to the Executive. History furnishes one example only of a First Magistrate being formally brought to public justice. Every body cried out against this as unconstitutional. What was the practice before this, in cases where the Chief Magistrate rendered himself obnoxious? Why, recourse was had to assassination, in which he was not only deprived of his life, but of the opportunity of vindicating his character.* It would be the best way, therefore, to provide in the Constitution for the regular punishment of the Executive, where his misconduct should deserve it, and for his honorable acquittal, where he should be unjustly accused.

    *Today we call this the double whammy.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki.

    While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph…

    Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia.

    These are beyond lies…how does anyone counter bullshit like this? Actually, a better question is who actually believes any of this bullshit…

    1
  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Slugger: Yes. And the editors and publisher of Chosun Ilbo are on the conservative side of the Korean political spectrum. American conservatism has created interesting problems for itself. It’s almost as if it’s an intellectually bankrupt belief system.

    2
  20. Mikey says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I guarantee if they somehow get Bill Browder to Russia–I’m not sure how, since he’s a naturalized Brit now, not an American–the Russians will kill him.

    2
  21. Kathy says:

    In the meantime, Cheeto the Clown doubles down on hostility to NATO. Now in regards to Montenegro.

    I mislike quoting the Cheeto, but this is a time to make an exception. In an interview referenced in the story linked above, he said

    Montenegro has “very aggressive people,” Trump said. “They may get aggressive and congratulations, you’re in World War III. Now I understand that … but that’s the way it was set up.”

    An alliance set up for defense does not commonly join a member on a war that’s not defensive. For example, while NATO invoked Article V in response to 9-11, it didn’t do so when the US went to war with Iraq. So the slur of the Montenegrins aside, they can be as aggressive as they want and pick up fights with half the world and their big sister, and NATO would not be obliged to lift a finger in response.

    6
  22. Timothy Watson says:

    @Kathy: It’s worth remembering that it was the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic, who Trump pushed out of the way at last year’s NATO summit.

    3
  23. restless says:

    @Kathy:

    I had *just* finished reading this, over on Arstechnica, detailing the evidence that Russia was willing to “use hard and covert power to destabilize”.

    Would this be the kind of thing that might obligate NATO?

  24. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I think he just walked back the walk back of the walk back, since apparently he now holds Putin “personally responsible” for the Russian meddling.

    If someone in Hollywood wrote a script this bad, the studios would reject it as “unrealistic”.

    4
  25. Joe says:

    Putin asked Trump to hand over various US citizens, including former US ambassador Micahel McFaul, and that Trump is considering granting that request

    How does Stormy Dragon‘s point get lost in the noise? Trump is considering using American government resources to turn over Putin’s enemies, including not only American citizens but American officials? Whaaaaaa?

    11
  26. Kathy says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    Somewhat.

    In Trump’s defense, I’ve no doubt he’d have pushed out his mother or anyone else. So I doubt it was a personal slight.

  27. michilines says:

    @Joe: Agreed.
    I just read in another article that SHS said Putin brought it up but Trump had made no commitment. What?!?!?! How is your first response not “NO FREAKING WAY”?

    But of course, McFaul worked for Obama (forgetting that he actually worked for our country) and Browder is allegedly connected to HRC (forgetting that he’s not even a U.S. citizen), which means that Putin was prepared and Trump wasn’t so Trump got caught flatfooted when he could have just smacked that down immediately. Idiot.

    3
  28. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @POTUS

    He also asserted that no president has been tougher on Russia than him: “I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, certainly a lot better than the media.” Trump told reporters.

    President Kennedy, the Berlin Blockade, and the Cuban Missile Crisis all would like to have a word with Donald over his ignorance, outside. No translator will be required.

    3
  29. An Interested Party says:

    It’s almost as if it’s an intellectually bankrupt belief system.

    Almost?

    3
  30. Ron says:

    https://spectator.org/everyone-is-smart-except-trump/

    “He is a tough and smart negotiator. He sizes up his opponent, and he knows that the approach that works best for one is not the same as for another. It does not matter what he says publicly about his negotiating opponent. What matters is what results months later. In his first eighteen months in Washington, this man has turned around the American economy, brought us near full employment, reduced the welfare and food stamp lines, wiped out ISIS in Raqqa, moved America’s Israel embassy to Jerusalem, successfully has launched massive deregulation of the economy, has opened oil exploration in ANWR, is rebuilding the military massively, has walked out of the useless Paris Climate Accords that were negotiated by America’s amateurs who always get snookered, canned the disastrous Iran Deal, exited the bogus United Nations Human Rights Council. He has Canada and Mexico convinced he will walk out of NAFTA if they do not pony up, and he has the Europeans convinced he will walk out of NATO if they don’t stop being the cheap and lazy parasitic penny-pinchers they are. He has slashed income taxes, expanded legal protections for college students falsely accused of crimes, has taken real steps to protect religious freedoms and liberties promised in the First Amendment, boldly has taken on the lyme-disease-quality of a legislative mess that he inherited from Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama on immigration, and has appointed a steady line of remarkably brilliant conservative federal judges to sit on the district courts, the circuit appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.
    What has Anderson Cooper achieved during that period? Jim Acosta or the editorial staffs of the New York Times and Washington Post? They have not even found the courage and strength to stand up to the coworkers and celebrities within their orbits who abuse sexually or psychologically or emotionally. They have no accomplishments to compare to his. Just their effete opinions, all echoing each other, all echoing, echoing, echoing. They gave us eight years of Nobel Peace Laureate Obama negotiating with the ISIS JV team, calming the rise of the oceans, and healing the planet.

    We will take Trump negotiating with Putin any day.”

    1
  31. An Interested Party says:

    @Ron: While reading that, I heard a very loud sucking noise…the poor dear who wrote it should immediately seek out some professional mental help…

    6
  32. Otter says:

    I mean this with all sincerity bc I’m an amateur at this stuff. How is what Russia did in the 2016 election any different than what we have done in many countries in the past including actively aiding overthrowing heads of state? NSA spies on people. FSB does as well. DIA. CIA. That intell is used by our government to influence people in other countries to support us – doesn’t the US still try to influence elections in other countries including funding certain candidates. I really would like to here thoughts . Unless its an inappropriate use of this thread/forum. Again I’m a novice at this but enjoy reading the various viewpoints and things to consider.

    1
  33. Jax says:

    I suggest a drinking game based on Trump lies, walk backs, walk backs of walk backs, walking it back again, how many different “lying yoga” poses SHS’s face goes thru in a day as she attempts to make him look sane, and….

    Dear God, what are the betting odds in Vegas on impeachment vs war against Montenegro right now? Does he not like them because the country says negro at the end?

    1
  34. rachel says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Maybe we can get all the teams that did the opening credits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail on it.

    1
  35. Mikey says:

    Trump received a clear, detailed, and definitive briefing confirming Russian interference and Putin’s directive to do it two weeks before his inauguration. Yet he continues to deflect and deny.

    4
  36. Jen says:

    @Jax: That would be a very dangerous game. Probably best to use very low alcohol “near beer” etc.

    That NYT article is incredible. What a thin-skinned, weak, and emotionally stunted president we have that he cannot acknowledge the facts of the case without feeling like it might cost him.

    4
  37. drj says:

    @Jen:

    What a thin-skinned, weak, and emotionally stunted president we have that he cannot acknowledge the facts of the case without feeling like it might cost him.

    I suspect it’s much worse than that.

    The fact that someone leaked to the NYT that the US had “a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin” means that this source is either out of the country and safe, or, more likely, dead.

    I wouldn’t be surprised AT ALL if that source is now dead because Trump blabbed to his good friend Vlad. He also gave up that Israeli source, didn’t he?

    This is rather a bit beyond “thin-skinned” in my book.

    3
  38. Kathy says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Almost?

    Yes. It’s almost a belief system 🙂

  39. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Ron:

    this man has turned around the American economy

    That’s a lie…and a ridiculous lie at that. There is no point in reading that drivel any further. If you can’t make your point without lying…(and without lying Republicans have nothing to sell)…then you have no point.

    7
  40. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @michilines:

    I just read in another article that SHS said Putin brought it up but Trump had made no commitment. What?!?!?! How is your first response not “NO FREAKING WAY”?

    He even said it was a great idea…a beautiful offer.
    And Republicans in Congress remain silent.
    This is so much worse than any imagined mis-deeds in Benghazi…it pales in comparison.
    I certainly hope that Dennison is a knowing agent of Putin’s. If not he is simply the dumbest mother-fvcker on the planet (except for the dumb mother-fvckers who continue to support him).

    2
  41. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    That article is horrifying. The Trumpkins are split between calling it Fake News cooked up by the NYT, or fake data invented by the CIA, the FBI, and the DOJ.

    2
  42. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Ron:

    this man has turned around the American economy

    The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released new projections on Wednesday morning showing that the federal budget deficit will hit nearly $900 billion this year, and will top $1 trillion next year.

    Please, Ron…tell me another non-recession year in which the deficit ballooned this much?
    2 years ago you would have been screaming bloody murder about this, you hypocrite.
    Turned around the economy, indeed…for the worse.

    6
  43. Pylon says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    President Kennedy, the Berlin Blockade, and the Cuban Missile Crisis all would like to have a word with Donald over his ignorance, outside. No translator will be required.

    I suppose someone clever would say “that was the Soviet Union, not Russia”. Same would apply, I guess, the Reagan bluffing (unintentionally, I’d say) the USSR into bankrupting their economy.

    However, Bush provocatively made missile deployments that Putin didn’t like, and did so with a fairly Putin-like attitude of “I don’t care what you think”. Obama actually got to the point of effective agreements with Russia, which was a result of tough negotiating. He also passed the Magnitsky Act which seems to bother Putin a lot. And then of course he and the EU passed sanctions for Crimea which have hurt the USSR.

    2
  44. rachel says:

    @Ron: Who are you quoting? Whoever that is is either really stupid or a liar.

    2
  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mikey: Meh… I see the problem; you’re assuming that Trump read a document. Dangerous assumption to make.

  46. Matt says:

    @Otter: Here let me modify what you said slightly to help you out a bit.

    I mean this with all sincerity bc I’m an amateur at this stuff. How is what Russia did in using drones to assassinate people in the USA any different than what we have done in many countries in the past including actively aiding overthrowing heads of state? NSA spies on people. FSB does as well. DIA. CIA. That intell is used by our government to influence people in other countries to support us – doesn’t the US still try to influence elections in other countries including funding certain candidates. I really would like to here thoughts . Unless its an inappropriate use of this thread/forum. Again I’m a novice at this but enjoy reading the various viewpoints and things to consider.

    See how your “reasoning” could excuse any behaviour by the Russians in the USA? Your paragraph could easily be used to “excuse” Russia invading the USA. Because well it’s not like the USA hasn’t invaded other countries blahblahblah

    I have this silly notion that we as a country should try to protect ourselves from enemies. Those countries that you referenced also actively try to defend against influence. So why should we refuse to defend ourselves?

  47. Otter says:

    @Matt: we should absolutely defend ourselves. My question is how is this any different than what we do every day to other countries to one degree or another. If there was collusion w us citizens then by all means go after those folks.