According to AP, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Chief of Staff John Kelly gathered Tuesday to convince President Trump to backtrack on his comments on the US intelligence assessment of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election during the joint press conference with Putin.
The report comes a week after one-on-one discussions between Putin and Trump, followed by a joint press conference, where the US president somewhat hinted that he believed that Moscow had nothing to do with the alleged meddling.
“He [Putin] just said it’s not Russia. […] I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. […] 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,” he said.
As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 16 июля 2018 г.
During the joint presser, POTUS once again stated that there had been no collusion between him and Putin, as they didn’t know each other prior to the election. He further revealed that Putin offered to allow US agents to travel to Russia and observe the questioning of the 12 suspects Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller had indicted days before the historic meeting.
AP suggested that Trump’s top aides told him that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were increasingly alarmed at his words and that plenty of congressional representatives as well as his supporters believed the public praise of Putin was way over the line.
Just a day after the summit, Trump walked back his support of Putin’s denial of Russian interference in US election, claiming he had misspoken during the press conference and accepted US intelligence reports that Moscow allegedly sought to influence the outcome of the vote.
“The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t – or why it wouldn’t be Russia,” the president clarified Tuesday, claiming he’d used a confusing “double negative.”
In an interview with CBS News, which aired Wednesday, Trump claimed that he held the Russian president personally accountable for Moscow’s alleged interference.
The Trump administration has on multiple occasions denied any collusion with the Kremlin during the election campaign, with President Trump branding the allegations a “witch hunt.” Moscow, for its part, has also dismissed the accusations of its meddling in the 2016 vote as “groundless.”