Trump says Russia no longer targeting the US, contradicting his intelligence chief

ABC News – President Donald Trump on Wednesday denied Russia is still targeting the U.S., contradicting American intelligence agencies.

Trump’s response to a question from ABC News’ Cecilia Vega came as reporters were gathered just ahead of a session at the White House with Cabinet members.

“Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President,” Vega asked.

“Thank you very much, no,” he said.

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

He responded: “No.”

The response would seem to contradict Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats who, in a speech on Friday at the Hudson Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank warned of Russian cyberattacks. “The warning lights are blinking red again.”

Coats went on to say: “These actions are persistent, they are pervasive and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy.”

On that same day, 12 Russian military officials were indicted for hacking democratic infrastructure in the 2016 election.

Trump’s most recent comments are part of a week-long series of statements and clarifications following the president’s press conference with Russia president Vladimir Putin on Monday.

During that press conference, Trump appeared to accept what he called Putin’s “strong” and “powerful” denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

Coats responded that the intelligence community stands by its findings.

“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers,” Coats said in a statement. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

Keenly aware there was a problem after his news conference in Helsinki with Putin, Trump met with top advisers Tuesday morning to discuss what to do about it.

Sources tell ABC News the president himself came up with the idea of the “would” versus “would not” clarification, telling aides he had seen the clip, realized he misspoke, and wanted to make a statement.

Those involved with crafting the statement were: White House adviser Steven Miller, press secretary Sarah Sanders, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Bill Shine, Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The president also discussed it with Newt Gingrich, who had called on Trump to clarify his comments in Helsinki on “the U.S. intelligence system and Putin,” calling the remarks “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”

Late in the process, Vice President Mike Pence also asked to see the statement.

The line “it could have been a lot of people” was not part of the prepared remarks. The president’s aides were also not particularly surprised the president said it.

By Tuesday, the president said he used the wrong words and meant to say there was no reason “it wouldn’t be Russia” behind election meddling.

“I said the word would instead of wouldn’t…I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”


Categories: National News, News, Politics