President Donald Trump said Tuesday he accepts that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US election, and that he misspoke by appearing to accept Vladimir Putin’s denials over those of his own intelligence chiefs.
“I have felt very strongly that while Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election, let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said, before a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House.
In an extraordinary postscript to Monday’s joint news conference in Helsinki, Trump went on to claim that he misspoke when he appeared to take the Russian leader’s denial of interference at face value.
Insisting he had won the race fair and square, Trump said Monday: “I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
On Tuesday, he offered a laborious explanation for his remarks, which triggered a firestorm, both among opposition Democrats and members of his own Republican Party.
“I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realize that there is need for some clarification,” Trump said.
“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 of ‘wouldn’t’.”
“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.’”
“So just to repeat it, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’ and the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe 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.’”
Trump has found himself isolated and under pressure to reverse course after publicly challenging the US intelligence conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.