Twenty-four hours ago, Trump publicly accepted Putin’s denial that Russian actors attempted to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump. On Tuesday, after sustained criticism from just about everyone, including congressional Republicans, he attempted to walk it back, though in the most confusing way possible.
Trump claimed that he misspoke, saying that he meant to indicate that he had no reason to believe that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election. However, in an attempt to avoid a “double negative,” he said he mistakenly made it appear that he was siding with Putin. Watch the video for the whole convoluted explanation:
Trump also stressed that he accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia did, in fact, meddle in the 2016 election, asserting that he has “full faith in our intelligence agencies.” But he added, “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
However, it’s abundantly clear that Trump did not misspeak in Helsinki. He endorsed Putin’s story in Monday’s press conference, and the “would”/“wouldn’t” explanation does not exonerate him.
The point of these remarks was to stem the bleeding among Republicans. Even still, he wasn’t able to fully endorse the findings of American intelligence agencies. It was a muddled, half-hearted attempt to stop a damaging news cycle; the question is if it will be enough for Republicans to move on.