July 17 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he misspoke during a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin when he said he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.
Speaking to reporters from the White House, Trump said he was surprised at the reaction he received over his public remarks with Putin on Monday.
“I have to say, I came back and I said … ‘what’s the big deal?'” he said.
Trump said he reviewed the transcript and clips from the news conference and said he made a mistake when he answered a reporter who asked the U.S. president if he would publicly denounce the election meddling to Putin. Trump first questioned why the FBI never directly reviewed Democratic National Committee servers — which U.S. officials said were hacked by Russian intelligence officers.
“My people came to me — [Director of National Intelligence] 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,” Trump said.
“I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”
The mistake came in the last sentence.
“I realize there is a need for some clarification,” he said. “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 see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,'” Trump added, acknowledging that it was a double negative.
The president said he has “full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies.”
He drew sharp criticism from U.S. lawmakers, including top leaders from his own party, for his remarks Monday with Putin. He said he holds both countries responsible for election interference and called the Robert Muellerprobe “a disaster for our country.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., added there is “no question” Russia interfered in the election, citing findings by the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence.
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan said. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Americans had “never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way” Trump did at the conference.
On Tuesday, Schumer said Trump’s clarification was “too late and in the wrong place.”
“If [Trump] can’t say directly to President Putin that he is wrong and we are right and our intelligence agencies are right, it’s ineffective and worse, another sign of weakness,” he tweeted.