Donald Trump was roundly criticized yesterday for siding with Russian president Vladimir Putin over US intelligence agencies, when asked if he believed Russia meddled in the 2016 US election.
He told the news conference yesterday:
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My people came to me—[director of national intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others— they said they think it’s Russia. 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….So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
Today, Trump gave a baffling performance when he came out to correct the statement, telling reporters that that he actually accepted the US intelligence community’s conclusion. He claimed that he misspoke during his press conference with Putin:
I went out there and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave and I realize there’s a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, I thought it would be 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 instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,’ or ‘it wouldn’t be Russia.’
So, just to repeat it, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been—and I thought I would maybe be a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video— 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’s statement didn’t address his assertion that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial.”