Donald Trump has distanced himself from his comments that saw him siding with Russia over his own intelligence agencies after a furious backlash.
The President said he simply misspoke when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 election that put him in the White House.
Questioning last week’s federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump said: ‘I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
‘He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.’
Facing fury from his own party, Trump sought to end over a day of recrimination by delivering a rare admission of error.
He said: ‘The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia’ instead of ‘why it would.’
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Trump had made the original comments standing alongside Vladimir Putin on a stage in Helsinki.
However, he tweeted six times and appeared on two television interviews since the Putin news conference – without correcting his remarks.
Despite the clarification, Trump did not reverse other statements in which he gave clear credence to Putin’s ‘extremely strong and powerful’ denial of Russian involvement, raised doubts about his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions and advanced discredited conspiracy theories about election meddling.
He also accused past American leaders, rather than Russia’s destabilising actions in the US and around the world, for the souring of relations between two countries.
Trump admitted: ‘I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.’
But he made a point of adding: ‘It could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all.’
The meeting between President Putin and myself was a great success, except in the Fake News Media!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Mr Trump was trying to “squirm away” from his comments alongside Mr Putin.
He said: ‘It’s 24 hours too late and in the wrong place.’
Hundreds of activists, led by attorney Michael Avenatti and actress Alyssa Milano, staged a protest near the White House after the President’s comments.
The odds of Trump being impeached were slashed from 8/1 to 2/1 overnight following his comments at the Putin press conference.