(CBS News)- President Trump on Tuesday claimed he has full faith in U.S. intelligence agencies, on the heels of his widely criticized meeting and press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Trump made those comments at the beginning of a meeting with members of Congress, claiming he meant to say in the meeting in Helsinki, Finland, that he had no reason to think it was anyone other than Russia that interfered in the 2016 election. The president said he intended to claim he had no reason to believe it was anyone other than Russia who interfered, but misspoke and said the opposite.
“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,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday. “Could be other people also.”
Mr. Trump made the comments in the face of a flood of criticism, even from Republicans, over his meeting and press conference Monday with Putin. In that press conference, Mr. Trump appeared to side with Putin over his won intelligence agencies on the subject of election meddling.
Still, Mr. Trump emphasized that any actions Russia took had no impact on the presidential election, and diplomacy with Russia is important. The president called his meeting with Putin more successful than his NATO meeting, claiming he and Putin made progress on conflicts. Mr. Trump, as he has in the past, emphasized that getting along with Russia is a desirable thing. The president, according to the White House press cool, ignored a question as to whether he will publicly condemn Putin.
“As successful as NATO was, I think this was our most successful visit,” Mr. Trump said.
Only a small handful of Republicans, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, have defended Mr. Trump. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates issued a statement following the Putin meeting that clearly broke with Mr. Trump’s stance during the Putin press conference.
The president’s comments alongside members of Congress came after he seemed to double down on his press conference with Putin earlier in the day. Mr. Trump, rather than backing down from his comments with Putin, doubled down on them Tuesday. Mr. Trump tweeted that he has “an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia” than he did with NATO.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!” the president tweeted Tuesday morning.
While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2018