Donald Trump was still dug in, unwilling to back down a day after siding with Vladimir Putin over US intelligence agencies in accepting the Russian leader’s denial of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.
That changed after a meeting between the president and Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, according to a person familiar with the deliberations.
After Pompeo and Pence intervened, Trump chose to issue a public clarification of remarks he made at the Helsinki summit, which had ignited a firestorm of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
Even then, he would only go so far, saying he misspoke with a single word, and that he accepted the US intelligence finding of Russian meddling in the election. He then immediately undercut that account, looking up from a prepared text to add, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
On Wednesday, Trump was on Twitter early, promising “many positive things” will result from the meeting with Putin.
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,” Trump tweeted, adding that he and Putin “got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s retreat will be enough to quell the most intense backlash from Republicans against anything he has done in office.
GOP leaders who looked past his recorded remarks about his refusal to denounce neo-Nazi protesters, or complained but took no substantive action when he imposed tariffs on allies, were aghast at an American president appearing to take the side of a Russian leader against his own intelligence agencies.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a staunch Trump backer whose wife Callista was named US ambassador to the Vatican by Trump, called it “the most serious mistake of his presidency.” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said “the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”
But Republican elected officials have been wary of criticising Trump and alienating his supporters as midterm elections approach.
A wave of GOP criticism ebbed after Trump’s comments, made at an afternoon meeting with lawmakers.
Despite the clarification, Trump didn’t retreat from savaging Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election meddling as he stood alongside Putin.
Putin’s ‘incredible’ offer to Trump tied to 2016 campaign meeting
President Vladimir Putin’s offer to help the US investigate alleged Russian election meddling, hailed as an “incredible” gesture by Donald Trump, included the same allegations made by a Kremlin-linked lawyer at a controversial 2016 meeting with top campaign officials of the future president.
Putin said at his summit with Trump in Helsinki on July 16 that he’s ready to let Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team attend interviews of 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted for alleged election hacking.
In return, he said, Russia wants to question a number of US citizens as well as British financier and Putin critic Bill Browder over an alleged $1.5 billion tax evasion, part of whose proceeds Russia says went to the Democratic Party.
The allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election overshadowed the Helsinki summit.