Trump on his meeting with Putin, U.S. intelligence and his response to critics
WASHINGTON -- In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor, President Trump said he believes U.S. intelligence agencies' assessment Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The president's comments came after he was widely criticized for his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had no reason to believe Russia interfered with the election. The next day, the president said he misspoke.
The first portion of the interview with Mr. Trump aired Wednesday on the "CBS Evening News." The second half of the interview will air Thursday on "CBS This Morning" at 7 a.m. ET.
GLOR: You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016.
TRUMP: Yeah and I've said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah.
GLOR: But you haven't condemned Putin, specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?
TRUMP: Well I would, because he's in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes.
GLOR: What did you say to him?
TRUMP: Very strong on the fact that we can't have meddling, we can't have any of that, now look. We're also living in a grown up world. Will a strong statement, you know, President Obama supposedly made a strong statement, nobody heard it, what they did hear is the statement he made to Putin's very close friend. And that statement was not acceptable. Didn't get very much play relatively speaking. But that statement was not acceptable. But I let him know we can't have this, we're not going to have it, and that's the way it's going to be.
GLOR: But he denies it, so if you believe US intelligence agencies, is Putin lying to you?
TRUMP: I don't want to get into whether or not he's lying. I can only say that I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as currently constituted. I think that Dan Coats is excellent, I think that Gina is excellent. I think we have excellent people in the agencies. And when they tell me something it means a lot.
GLOR: Coats says the threat is ongoing. Do you agree with that?
TRUMP: Well, I'd accept, I mean he's an expert. This is what he does. He's been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Dan Coats. And if he says that, I would accept that. I will tell you, though, it better not be. It better not be.
GLOR: Have you talked to Coats since you got back?
TRUMP: Yeah, I have, sure.
GLOR: What'd he say?
TRUMP: Well, just talked, generally speaking. Yeah, he, he agrees with the statement you made. And I go along with him. He's a very, he's a great guy. He's a great patriot. He loves his country. And he's only going to say what he truly believes. And the information that's given to him is that.
GLOR: Do you think any intelligence agencies, U.S. intelligence agencies, are out to get you?
TRUMP: Well, certainly in the past, it's been terrible. You look at Brennan, you look at Clapper, you look at Hayden, you look at Comey, you look at McCabe, you look at Strzok and his lover, Lisa Page. You look at other people in the F.B.I. that have been fired, are no longer there.
TRUMP: Certainly I can't have any confidence in the past. But I can have a lot of confidence in the present and the future, because it's getting to be now where we're putting our people in. But in the past, no, I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he's a total low-life. I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice.
TRUMP: And then, all of a sudden, he's gone haywire because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn't even mean. But no, I certainly don't have confidence in past people. You look at what's happened. Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.
GLOR: On Saturday you told us your doctrine is strength.
GLOR: And achieving peace through strength.
GLOR: After Helsinki, Lindsey Graham said you showed weakness.
TRUMP: Well, Lindsay, you know, you're gonna have to-- let-- lemme just--
GLOR: Newt Gingrich said it was the most serious mistake in your presidency.
TRUMP: I totally disagree. I think I did great at the news conference. I think it was a strong news conference. You have people that said, 'You shoulda gone up to him. You shoulda walked up and started screaming in his face.' We're living in the real world. OK?
GLOR: Who gives you the best advice? When you come back and you read all these stories, you said, you know, what the fuss is all about. Who, who do you talk to?
TRUMP: Well, I-- I will tell you, I don't know what the fuss is all about. I think we did extremely well. And I think the press makes up the, look, it's fake news. And people understand. I think the press largely makes up a lot of the fuss about a lot of things. And I'm not talking about everything.
TRUMP: It's crazy. You do something that's positive, and they try and make it as negative as possible. Not all. And I have to say this, some of the most honorable people I know, some great people, are reporters, journalists, et cetera. But the level of dishonesty in your profession is extremely high.
GLOR: But they-- we-- they-- the-- the press covered the substance and the wording of that press conference accurately.
TRUMP: I don't care what they covered. They don't, they didn't cover my meeting. The important thing, frankly, was the meeting that lasted for two and a half hours, or almost two and a half hours. And in that meeting, we discussed many, many things that were very, very positive for both countries.
GLOR: What tangibly emerged from that conversation? What, what do you feel you achieved?
TRUMP: I think we achieved a lot.
TRUMP: Things emerged out that were very important. Nuclear proliferation between Russia and the United States, that's 90 percent of the nuclear weapons. Protection of Israel. He feels good about that, I feel good about that, very good about that. That was a big factor. We talked about North Korea. He said he will help. He agrees with what I'm doing. He thinks I'm doing a great job with respect to North Korea. He said he would help. I think he will. Let's see what happens.
GLOR: How? How--
TRUMP: You know, they have a lot of border. They have 25 miles of border right on North Korea. So having that assurance, I think means quite a bit. There were many other things we talked about. But I thought it was a very good. It was about two and a half hours. And I thought it was a very good meeting, very good.
GLOR: How do you think he can help specifically on North Korea?
TRUMP: Well for one thing, at the border. We don't want anything going in. We hope we have a deal. I think we have a deal. There's no rush, to be honest with you. There are no missiles going off. We have our hostages back. No testing. There's no nuclear testing. So we've come a long way in a short period of time.
TRUMP: So there is no rush. But what there is something we would like to see that the denuclearization of North Korea, he feels strongly about it, I feel strongly about it. And that's good. I was not sure how he was going to react to that, but we had a very good discussion, and a long discussion on that.
GLOR: I do want to ask you, sir. You said you'll sit with the special counsel before. Has anything changed in the past six months to change your mind?
TRUMP: No, my lawyers are working on --
GLOR: More or less likely to?
TRUMP: There's no collusion. I didn't deal with Russia. I had nothing to do with Russia with respect to my race. I won that race rather easily. And I can tell you that I think, frankly, 2020, I think it's going to be even better than we did in '16.
GLOR: But would you, are you more likely to sit an interview now?
TRUMP: My lawyers are working on that. I've always wanted to do an interview, because look, there's been no collusion. There's been no talk of Russia. There's been no phone call. There's been nothing. And it's I call it a witch hunt. That's exactly what it is. It's a it's a vicious witch hunt. And you know what? It's very bad for our country. Very, very bad for our country.
Watch more of the interview with Mr. Trump on Thursday, July 19, on the "CBS Evening News" with Jeff Glor, 6:30-7 p.m. ET.
for more features.