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President Trump Has Muddled Message on Russian Meddling

HeadlineJul 19, 2018

President Donald Trump continued to sow confusion Tuesday over whether he believes Russia is meddling in U.S. elections, a day after he said he misspoke in a Helsinki news conference following his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Monday, Trump tried to walk back his remark that he didn’t see any reason why Russia would have meddled in the 2016 election, after intelligence officials and lawmakers of both parties decried his comments as treasonous. On Tuesday, Trump appeared to go a step further in his reversal, telling CBS News he held Putin personally responsible for interfering in U.S. elections.

Jeff Glor: “Do you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016?”

President Donald Trump: “Yeah, and I’ve said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before. And I would say that that is true, yeah.”

Jeff Glor: “But you haven’t condemned Putin specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?”

President Donald Trump: “Well, I would, because he’s in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So, certainly, as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him responsible, yes.”

Trump’s assertion came as his hand-picked FBI director, Christopher Wray, told NBC News that Russia’s efforts to subvert U.S. elections remain “very active.” When asked by a reporter Tuesday if Russia was continuing to target the U.S., Trump replied, “No.”

Cecilia Vega: “Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?”

President Donald Trump: “Thank you very much. No.”

Unidentified: “Press, let’s go. Make your way out.”

Cecilia Vega: “No? You don’t believe that to be the case?”

Unidentified: “Let’s go.”

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s “no” remark was aimed at ending reporters’ questions—and was not actually a response to a question about Russian interference.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I had a chance to speak with the president after his comments, and the president was—said, 'Thank you very much,' and was saying 'no' to answering questions.”

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