Twenty-four hours after saying he did not have faith in his U.S. intel agencies and instead believed the “very strong and powerful” words of the strongman standing next to him in Helsinki who orchestrated Russian interference in the 2016 election, Trump announced today is Opposite Day.
In a hastily called White House gathering of reporters, Trump said he has full faith in the U.S. intelligence agencies and their assertion that Russia tampered with the 2016 election.
An understandable mix-up, Trump insisted, caused by his having said onstage next to Vladimir Putin that he did not see any reason why it WOULD be Russia who had tampered in the U.S. election, when he had meant to say he did not see any reason why it “WOULDN’T be Russia.”
“In a key sentence in my remarks, I said ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ You can put that in,” Trump instructed reporters at the White House. “I think that probably clarifies it.”
FYI, what Trump said in Helsinki: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But, I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
One day later, he insisted, reading from a script, “I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies. I always have,” Trump said, re-writing history.
“I felt very strongly that, while Russia’s actions had no impact on the outcome of the election let me be totally clear in saying and said many times I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian meddling in the 2016 election took place.”
And then, because Trump was not buying any of this script he was reading, he added, extemporaneously: “It could be other people also. There are a lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all.”
It remains to be seen if anyone bought the horseradish the White House ladled out in a fitting finish to Trump’s Scorched Earth European Tour that also included his undercutting of Brit PM Theresa May and disrespecting Queen Elizabeth, as well as his performance as Putin’s lapdog at the Helsinki presser.
Today’s limp “would/wouldn’t” stab at damage control follows fierce fallout from the Helsinki stop, that included a growing number of Republicans sending “Don’t pay any attention to the orange guy on the stage” messages to NATO allies.
Shortly before Trump staged his begrudging off-camera walk-back, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had kneecapped him, delivering his own message from the U.S. Senate to “our friends in Europe.”
“We understand the Russian threat,” McConnell said, assuring them it is “the widespread view here in the U.S. Senate among members of both parties.”
McConnell said he was speaking from the Senate because he thinks “it’s important for friends and allies to hear from us.”
“I’m not here to critique anyone else,” he insisted, while doing just that with every word.
“I’m here to speak for myself, and you heard from others this morning who are standing behind me, about our viewers about our friends and allies,” McConnell told reporters. “I want [allies] to understand that, in this country, there are lot people in both parties who believe that these alliances painstakingly built in the wake of the end of World War II are important and we want to maintain them.
“In the meantime, Russians need to know there are a lot of us who fully understand what happened in 2016, and it really better not happen again in 2018,” McConnell warned Trump as well as Russia.
Trump was said to have wound up his Scorched Earth European Tour in very good spirits, but that changed when word got out of the extreme level of blowback over his joint Putin presser.