President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he holds his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin personally responsible for Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election.
Speaking to CBS, Trump said he would consider Putin culpable because he’s Russia’s leader.
“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,” Trump said. “So certainly as the leader of the country you would have to hold him responsible.”
Trump’s views surrounding election meddling have been repeatedly called into question. As recently as this week – immediately after his one-on-one meeting with Putin – Trump appeared to believe Putin’s denial over the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Trump ultimately walked back the answer he gave at the joint news conference in Helsinki, and attributed his comments to a simple mistake.
“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,’” Trump said on Tuesday. He explained he had reviewed a transcript and video of his remarks.
“The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ ” he said. “Sort of a double negative.”
The White House was once again sent into clean-up mode Wednesday when Trump said “no” when a reporter asked him if Russia was still targeting the United States. Press secretary Sarah Sanders later claimed Trump was saying “no” to answering questions, not to whether the Russians are targeting the US.
When pressed in his Wednesday interview on whether his acceptance of the US intelligence analysis meant that he thought Putin lied when denying any Russian involvement, Trump said he “didn’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,” Trump said.
He said his message to Putin warning against future interference was “very strong” during their meeting Monday.
“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,” Trump said.
Trump also said once again that he wants to sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller is leading the investigation into Russian interference in the election and Russians’ ties to the Trump campaign.
“I’ve always wanted to do an interview, because look, there’s been no collusion,” Trump said.