President Trump today

By Meg Wagner and Brian Ries, CNN
7:44 a.m. ET, July 19, 2018
2:51 p.m. ET, July 18, 2018

White House denies President Trump doesn't think Russia is targeting US

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

The White House denied on Wednesday that President Trump doesn't believe Russia is targeting the United States.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders, who said she spoke with Trump about his answer earlier during a Cabinet meeting, said the President was declining to answer shouted questions when he said "no" to a question about Russia's current efforts.

"The President said thank you very much and said no to answering questions," Sanders said."The President and his administration are working very hard to make sure Russia is unable to meddling in our elections," she said, indicating Trump does believe Russia poses a current threat.

"We certainly believe that we are taking steps to make sure they can’t do it again," Sanders said.

This was the exchange:

Reporter: “Is Russia still targeting the US, Mr. President?”

President Trump: “Thank you very much, no.”

Vega: “No, you don’t believe that to be the case?”

Trump: “Thank you very much everybody. We’re doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia. There’s been no President ever as tough as I have been on Russia.

Watch:

2:01 p.m. ET, July 18, 2018

9 questions that could come up at today's White House press briefing

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will take reporters questions at a 2 p.m. press briefing today.

Briefings are increasingly rare: The White House has only held three on-camera briefings in the past 30 days. Sanders' most recent briefing was on July 2, more than two weeks ago.

Today's briefing comes amid a political storm for the President as he navigates the fallout over comments he made alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, in which he refused to back the US intelligence agencies conclusion that Russia meddled in the US election -- and another today in which he said they no longer are targeting the US.

With that in mind, here are some questions about Russia that could come up:

  • Trump just said Russia is no longer targeting the US — but his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, just last week raised the alarm on growing cyberattack threats against the United States. Does the President trust Coat's assessment?
  • Trump has seemingly waffled on the topic of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Simply put, does the President believe Russia meddled?
  • Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one last week. What exactly did they talk about?
  • Russia said it's ready to pursue agreements Trump and Putin reached — but the White House has not confirmed that any such deals exist. Is there an agreement between Russia and the US?

President Trump is also facing criticism for his performance at last week's NATO summit — and comments he's made about the alliance since then.

Here's what reporters might ask about NATO:

  • Trump has seemingly questioned the US commitment to defending all NATO allies. Is he committed to Article 5?
  • At least week's NATO summit, Trump said he got allies to agree to spend more on defense. Why, then, have some leader rebuffed that claim?

And a lot more has happened beyond Russia and NATO in the two weeks since the last press briefing.

Here are other questions that could come up:

  • The government is facing deadlines to reunite separated families. What are officials doing about the 71 children it cant find parents for?
  • We haven't had a White House press briefing since Scott Pruitt resigned from the EPA. Does the President have comment on his myriad of ethics scandals?
  • President Trump last week nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Does the White House have confidence he will be confirmed?
1:33 p.m. ET, July 18, 2018

GOP senator: There's a "BIG discrepancy" between Trump and his intelligence head

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham just tweeted about President Trump's comment that, "No," Russia is no longer targeting the US, saying it is "imperative we get to the bottom of what is going on."

What Graham is talking about

Asked if Russia is still targeting the United States, President Trump appeared to tell reporters on Wednesday "no."

The President's denial comes less than a week after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats raised the alarm on growing cyberattack threats against the United States, saying the situation is at a "critical point."

1:20 p.m. ET, July 18, 2018

Trump's intelligence chief says Russia is still targeting the US. Trump just disagreed.

President Trump just directly contradicted his Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats regarding whether Russia was still actively targeting the US.

What Trump said: Asked if Russia was still targeting the US, Trump said, "No."

But Coats, speaking both before and after President Trump's extraordinary press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, has repeatedly said Russia was continuing to target the US.

What Coats said: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats raised the alarm on growing cyberattack threats against the United States last Friday, saying the situation is at a "critical point" and coming out forcefully against Russia. "The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. It is why I believe we are at a critical point," Coats said. "Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack."

On Monday, in response to Trump's refusal alongside Putin to accept the intelligence agencies conclusions that Russia meddled in the US election, Coats added, "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security."

12:58 p.m. ET, July 18, 2018

Trump says Russia is no longer targeting the US

From CNN's Noah Gray

Asked if Russia is still targeting the United States, President Trump appeared to tell reporters on Wednesday "no."

But this intelligence official disagrees: The President's denial comes less than a week after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats raised the alarm on growing cyberattack threats against the United States, saying the situation is at a "critical point."

"The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. It is why I believe we are at a critical point," Coats said, addressing the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, on Friday. Then on Monday, Coats added, "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security."

Toughest president ever? Trump then went on to say that he has been the tougher US President on Russia ever. 

"We are doing very well, probably as well as anybody has ever done with Russia. And there's been no President ever as tough as I have been on Russia," Trump said

"All you have to do is look at the numbers, look at what we've done. Look at sanctions. Look at ambassadors not there. Look at unfortunately at what happened in Syria recently," he went on.

"And I think President Putin knows that better than anybody certainly a lot better than the media. He understands it and he's not happy about it and he shouldn't be happy about it,. Because there's never been a President as tough on Russia as I have been," Trump continued as his staff shouted at press to leave the room 

Watch the moment:

12:09 p.m. ET, July 18, 2018

John McCain: Trump is "playing right into Putin's hands"

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain said President Trump “is playing right into Putin’s hands” with his comments on Montenegro.

Why we're talking about Montenegro and NATO: NATO requires all members to help defend fellow member nations that have been attacked. But Trump seemingly questioned the US's commitment to that during an interview that aired Tuesday evening.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson asked: "Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?"

Trump responded:

"I've asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. ... They are very strong people. They are very aggressive people, they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you are in World War III."
"I understand, but that's the way it was set up ... Don't forget, I just got here a little more than a year and a half ago, but I took over the conversation three or four days ago and I said you have to pay."
11:31 a.m. ET, July 18, 2018

SOON: President Trump speaks at a cabinet meeting

President Trump will hold a cabinet meeting at 11:30 a.m. ET. He's expected to give remarks to the press during it.

This meeting comes as Trump faces fallout from his trip to Europe.

President Trump is facing bipartisan fury over his glowing remarks about Vladimir Putin. Yesterday, he said he misspoke during his news conference with the Russian president — but this morning he again defended the meeting.

He also criticized US allies during last week's NATO summit. During an interview that aired on Tuesday, Trump seemingly questioned the United States' commitment to defending all NATO allies.

11:05 a.m. ET, July 18, 2018

Trump defends his meeting with Putin (again)

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

President Trump on Twitter this morning defend his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin — one day after he walked back some remarks he made during the summit.

Here's this tweet:

Trump has repeatedly defended the Russia-US meeting and his relationship with Putin.

Here's how we got to this moment:

  • Monday: At a meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Trump would not endorse US intelligence findings on Russian election interference over Putin's denial.
  • Quickly after that: Trump was fiercely criticized for his comments and several top congressional Republicans and conservative media commentators condemned his remarks.
  • Tuesday: Trump attempted to clean up the controversy when he said he had misspoken during the news conference and affirmed that he has "full faith and support for America's intelligence agencies."

11:02 a.m. ET, July 18, 2018

What happened during the Trump-Putin meeting? The US isn't saying.

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette and Abby Phillip

Russia announced it was ready to pursue agreements reached by Presidents Putin and Trump — but the White House and Pentagon would not confirm any agreements had been made or offer any details.

What we know: Trump and Putin met for about two hours during their summit in Helsinki with only translators present.

What we don't: It is still not clear what the two men discussed or agreed to during their meeting.

Here's what Russia said yesterday:

"The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation is ready for practical implementation of the agreements reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in the sphere of international security achieved at the Helsinki summit," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian military spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday.