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Trump claims he misspoke about Russian meddling in Putin press conference

Last Updated Jul 17, 2018 5:46 PM EDT

President Trump on Tuesday claimed he accepts the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russians interfered in the 2016 election. He also said he misspoke when he suggested otherwise in a widely criticized press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki, Finland. 

"I will begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies, I always have," Mr. Trump said at the top of a meeting with members of Congress. "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 have 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 are lots of people out there."

Mr. Trump appeared to be reading from typed notes — with some handwritten additions — during his remarks in which he stated that Russians were behind the meddling. One of the handwritten notes appeared to say, "there was no collusion."

U.S. President Trump holds prepared remarks as he speaks about his summit meeting with Russian President Putin at the White House in Washington

U.S. President Donald Trump holds prepared remarks as he speaks about his summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the start of a meeting with members of the U.S. Congress at the White House in Washington, July 17, 2018.

Leah Millis / REUTERS

The president, making what he described as clarifying comments in a meeting with members of Congress at the White House Tuesday, said he meant to say that he had no reason to think Russia "wouldn't" have interfered in the 2016 election, instead of what he actually said on Monday, which is that he had no reason to think Russia "would" have interfered. Facing backlash over his remarks, Mr. Trump told reporters he reviewed a transcript of what he said, and decided to clarify his comments. 

"The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why I wouldn't, or why it wouldn't be Russia," the president added later. "So just to repeat it, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't' and this sentence should have been, and I thought I would maybe be a little bit unclear on the transcripts or unclear on the actual video, but the sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. So sort of a double negative."

Those remarks came after Mr. Trump defended Russia from charges of election interference Monday's press conference in Helsinki, when Mr. Trump said all he could do is "ask the question" about meddling and said Putin was very strong in his denials. Mr. Trump also cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia did interfere with the election to his benefit. 

After the press conference, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reiterated the findings of multiple intelligence agencies that Russians meddled in the 2016 presidential election. 

"My people came to me -- Dan Coats came to me and some others -- they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia," Mr. Trump said Monday. "I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have -- I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don't think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server."

Mr. Trump was referring to the hacked server belonging to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Mr. Trump told "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor the DNC "should be ashamed of themselves" for getting hacked. 

Mr. Trump insisted on Tuesday that any actions Russia took had no impact on the presidential election and that there was no collusion between members of his campaign and Russians. He also emphasized the importance of diplomacy, said getting along with Russia is a good thing, and claimed his meeting with Putin was more successful than the NATO meeting in Brussels last week. 

"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's performance at the press conference. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.