One day after President Donald Trump stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a press conference and said he did not see “any reason why” Russia would have interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Trump has backtracked somewhat, telling the White House press pool in a statement that he accepts the intel that Russia meddled in the election, but he said that the interference had no impact on the outcome of the election. Trump also said Tuesday his administration will “move aggressively” to repel any efforts to interfere in the 2018 election by Russia or others.
Following a two-hour summit with Putin, Trump told reporters on Monday, “My people came to me, 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.” On Tuesday, Trump said that he meant to say “wouldn’t,” not “would,” and the sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be” Russia.
Coats, Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, issued a statement after the press conference, reinforcing the consensus of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia did interfere in the election. “The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said Monday.
The comments by Trump during the press conference led to outrage from Democrats and some Republican members of Congress, with many saying Trump embarrassed himself and the country during the event. On Tuesday, Trump was forced to walk back the statements made during the press conference in an effort to clean up the issue. Trump spoke from the White House to reporters about the summit, reading from prepared remarks. You can watch video of Trump’s statement here. You can read the full text of his statement below:
I think this was our most successful visit. It had to do with, as you know, Russia. I met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an attempt to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing humanity. We have never been in a worse relationship with Russia than we are as of a few days ago. And I think that has gotten substantially better and I think it has the possibility of getting much better. I used to talk about this during the campaign, getting along with Russia would be a good thing, getting along with China would be a good thing. Not a bad thing, a good thing, in fact a very good thing. We are nuclear powers, great nuclear powers. Russia and us have 90 percent of the nuclear weapons, so I’ve always felt getting along was a positive thing and not just for that reason. I entered the meeting with the firm conviction that diplomacy and engagement is better than hostility and conflict. And I feel that with everybody. We have 29 members in NATO as an example and I have great relationships or at least very good relationships with everybody. The press covered it quite inaccurately. They said I insulted people. Well, if asking people to pay up money that they are supposed to say is insulting maybe I did. But I can tell you when I left, everybody was thrilled and that’s the way this was too.
My meeting with President Putin was really interesting in so many different ways, because we haven’t had relationships with Russia for a long time. And we started. Let me begin by saying that once again, the total faith and support for America’s intelligence agencies. I have full faith in our intelligence agencies. (Lights go out). Whoops they just turned out the lights, that must be the intelligence agencies. You guys OK? Good. That was strange. But that’s OK. I’ll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies. Always have. And 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, and I’ve said this many times, I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. There are are a lot of people out there. There was no collusion. At all. And people have seen that and they’ve seen that strongly, the House has already come out strongly on that. A lot of people have come out strongly on that.
I thought I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript. I have to say I came back and I said, ‘what is going on? what’s the big deal?’ So I got the transcript, I reviewed it, I actually went out and reviewed the clip of an answer that I gave. And I realize that there is a need for some clarification. It should’ve been obvious, I thought it was obvious, but I’d 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’ve been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ So just to repeat it, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’ and the sentence should’ve been, and I thought it would be maybe a little unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video. The sentence should’ve 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.
I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russia attempted to interfere in our elections. Unlike previous administrations, my administration has and will continue to move aggressively to repeal any efforts and repel, we will stop it, we will repel it, any efforts to interfere in our elections. We are doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018. And we have a lot of power as you know. As you know, President Obama was given information just prior to the election, past election, 2016, and they decided not to do anything about it. The reason they decided that was pretty obvious. They thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election and they didn’t think it was a big deal. When I won the election they thought it was a very big deal. And all of a sudden they went into action, but it was a little bit late. So he was given that in sharp contrast to the way it should be. And President Obama, along with Brennan and Clapper and the whole group you see on television now, probably getting paid a lot of money by your networks, they knew about Russia’s attempt to interfere in the election in September and they totally buried it. And as I said, they buried it because they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. Turned out didn’t happen that way. By contrast, my administration has taken a very firm stance, it’s a very firm stance on a strong action, we’re going to take strong action to secure our election systems and the process. Furthermore, as has been stated and we’ve stated it previously and on many occasions, no collusion.
Yesterday we made significant progress for addressing some of the worst conflicts on Earth. So when I met with President Putin for about two-and-a-half hours, we talked about numerous things. And among those things are the problems that you see in the Middle East, where they are very much involved, we’re very much involved, I entered the negotiations with President Putin from a position of tremendous strength. Our economy is booming and our military is being funded $700 billion, $716 billion next year. It will be more powerful as a military than we’ve ever had before. President Putin and I addressed a range of issues, starting with the civil war in Syria and the need for humanitarian aid and help for people in Syria. We also spoke of Iran and the need to hold their nuclear ambitions and the destabilizing activities taking place in Iran. As most of you know, we ended the Iran deal, which was one of the worst deals you could imagine. And that’s had a major impact on Iran. And it’s substantially weakened Iran. And we hope that at some point Iran will call us and we’ll maybe make a new deal or maybe we won’t. But Iran is not the same country that it was five months ago, that I can tell you. They are no longer looking so much to the Mediterranean and the entire Middle East. They’ve got some big problems that they can solve probably much easier if they deal with us. And we’ll see what happens. But we did discuss Iran. We discussed Israel and the security of Israel. And President Putin is very much involved now with us in the discussion with Bibi Netanyahu in the discussion surrounding Syria. And Syria and specifically with regards to the security and long-term security of Israel.
A major topic of discussion was North Korea and the need for it to remove its nuclear weapons. Russia has assured us of our support. President Putin has said he agrees with me 100 percent and they’ll do whatever they have to do to make it happen. Discussions are ongoing and going very, very well. We have no rush for speed. The sanctions are remaining. The hostages are back. There have been no tests, there have been no rockets going up for a period of 9 months and I think the relationships are very good. So we’ll see how that goes. We have no time limit, we have no speed limit, we’re just going through the process. But the relationships are very good. President Putin is going to be involved in the sense that he is with us, he would like to see that happen.
Perhaps the most important issue we discussed at our meeting prior to the press conference was the reduction of nuclear weapons throughout the world. The United States and Russia have 90 percent as I said and we can have a big impact. Nuclear weapons is I think the biggest threat to our world today. And they’re a great nuclear power, we’re a great nuclear power, we have to do something about nuclear. And so that was a matter that we discussed actually in great detail and President Putin agrees with me. The matters we discussed are profound in their importance and have the potential to save millions of lives. I understand that many disagreements between our countries, but I also understand the dialogue, and when you think about it, dialogue with Russia or dialogue with other countries, but dialogue with Russia in this case, where we’ve had such poor relationships for so many years, dialogue is a very important thing and it’s a very good thing. So, if we get along with them great, if we don’t get along with them, then we won’t get along with them. But I think we have a very good chance of having some very positive things. I thought that the meeting I had with President Putin was really strong. I think they were willing to do things that frankly I wasn’t sure that they would be willing to do. And we will be having future meetings and we will see whether that comes to fruition. But we had a very, very good meeting.
So, I just wanted to clear up. I have the strongest respect for our intelligence agencies headed by my people. We have great people, whether it’s Gina (Haspel) or Dan Coats or any other of them. We have tremendous people. Tremendous talent within the agencies. I think they’re being guided properly. And we all want the same thing, we want success for our country.
Trump did not respond to shouted questions from the press, including whether he would publicly condemn Putin for interfering in the election.