his controversial summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin produced real benefits. That follows an to retract a statement Mr. Trump made during his joint news conference with Putin, when he said he didn't see why it would be Russia that interfered in the 2016 campaign.
"The sentence should have been: 'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.' Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself," the president said Tuesday, reading from a printed script marked with the words, "There was No Collusion."
The clarification came moments after Mr. Trump seemed to again suggest it may not have been the Russians behind the election meddling.
"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. It could be other people, also," Mr. Trump said. "There are lots of people out there."
CBS News senior national security analyst and former homeland security adviser to George W. Bush, Fran Townsend, joined "CBS This Morning" Wednesday to talk about the president's comments.
"It's very clear it was the Russians who meddled in the 2016 election. Not others," Townsend said. "It's true, others do hack into the United States. But not in the election. What the intelligence community has said is 'It's the Russians.' The president seems constitutionally incapable of stating the facts."
Townsend said Mr. Trump's assertion that he misspoke didn't seem to carry water.
"His press secretary was with him," Townsend said. "If it was a mere misstatement of would or wouldn't, Sarah Huckabee Sanders would have done it then and there. Or would've had him do it in his first interview. It's really not credible."
That lends credence to Townsend's assumption that the president only made the correction because of pressure from the intelligence community.
"We have to ask ourselves, what would've caused the president, who's not prone to correcting himself publicly, to go out 26 hours later," Townsend said. "And I think you've got to assume there was some pretty tough talk inside of the White House in advance of that correction by intelligence chiefs who may have very well threatened to resign."
But Townsend said the attempt to mend fences may have come too late.
"If he really wanted to correct and help his relationship, fix his relationship with his intelligence community, you would have fixed it on foreign soil where you insulted them," Townsend said. "Not waited 26 hours back in the White House."
Townsend said she thinks President Trump feels like admitting the Russians meddled in the election would be akin to admitting he colluded with the Russians and that his election win isn't legitimate.
"I think he conflates collusion with meddling and the effect on the election. These are three separate things," Townsend said. "The intelligence community has been quite clear with him and [his director of national intelligence] Dan Coats, as recently as this week after his fumble in Helsinki, made clear it's a fact. The Russians interfered in the 2016 election and they continue meddling to this day. The intelligence community made no assessment of the effect of that meddling on the 2016 results, and Bob Mueller hasn't opined yet about collusion. And so these are separate things the president seems to conflate."
The president also cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community when he spoke with CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor before the summit in Finland. Mr. Trump demurred when asked if he agreed with Coats' assessment that the United States' digital infrastructure is susceptible to a large-scale attack.
"Well, I don't know if I agree with that," Mr. Trump said. "I'd have to look, but I have a lot of respect for Dan. And that's where he is and that's what he does."
That statement left Townsend scratching her head.
"One would think that he's already looked at it, right? And he's been briefed about it in excruciating detail," Townsend said. "Dan Coats and the intelligence folks are in there for like two hours a day talking to him, so I'm quite sure he's been briefed about it. It's hard to understand why he always hedges here."