Upon returning to the United States, and after an emergency meeting of his national security aides, who are clearly panicked by what he said, Trump held a cabinet meeting and tried up front to walk back some of the things he said during that press conference with Putin, indeed the incredibly stupid things he said and did on his entire trip abroad. It was awkward, ridiculous and dishonest — and those are the best things you can say about it.
First, he claimed that he misspoke and said “would” when he meant to say “would not” when expressing doubt about our intelligence services and their conclusions on Russian interference:
So 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 that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place. It could be other people also. There’s 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 very strongly on that.
A lot of people have come out strongly on that. I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript.
Now, I have to say, I came back and I said: “What is going on? What’s the big deal?” So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is a need for some clarification.
It should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious but I would 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 have been “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t” or “why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So just to repeat it, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t,” and the sentence should have been, and I thought I would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video.
The sentence should have 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 Russians attempted to interfere in our elections.
As always, Trump is talking out of both sides of his mouth, saying he has faith in our intelligence agencies and he accepts their findings, but then rejecting their findings in the very next sentence. To whom is this believable? Only to the most deluded of his followers. Again, how many times does he have to make statements denying or downplaying Russian interference before people no longer believe his generic “I have faith in our intelligence agencies” nonsense? A few examples:
“He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
“And by the way folks just in case you’re like curious, no Russia did not help me, O.K.? Russia. I call it the Russian Hoax, one of the great hoaxes.”
“Somebody did say if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.”
Trump has been involved in pro wrestling a few times and there’s an analogy here. It’s like when a big star has to lose to advance a story line but doesn’t want to lose “cleanly,” so they arrange for some interference to make sure he’s double-teamed or at some disadvantage to explain the loss. Trump doesn’t want to admit to Russian interference cleanly because his ego won’t let him. It diminishes his electoral victory. So instead he says “okay, maybe it was them, kind of, but it would have been other countries too, and I wasn’t involved anyway.” Anything to avoid reality.