Trump remark sparks confusion over position on ongoing Russian interference

President Trump & President Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki Finland

Asked by reporters on Wednesday if Russian Federation was still targeting the United States, Trump shook his head and said, "No".

That appears to directly contradict what the director of national intelligence has said.

The White House remained non-committal on the Russian proposal to allow investigators from both countries to question suspects under a 1999 treaty, which has the media and at least one former U.S. official up in arms.

Later, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders about the exchange during the White House briefing: "Cecilia (Vega) asked the president, 'Is Russia still targeting the U.S.?' He said 'No.' Is that what the president actually believes?"

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement on Monday after the Helsinki news conference saying, "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy".

While Sanders said Trump was saying "no" to indicate that he didn't want to answer questions, the president did offer a response just seconds after the answering in the negative.

Faced with outrage at home, Trump said Tuesday that he accepted the intelligence community's assessment that Russian Federation had meddled in the election.

The president's statements came after a second day of efforts by the White House to quell bipartisan anger over his failure to publicly hold Putin to account at a joint news conference in Helsinki. "This is Trump once again playing Putin's weak, frightened dupe".

"I totally disagree", Trump said when asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had termed it "the most serious mistake in your presidency". "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", Trump added.

"In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't", he explained.

"Thanks, Jordan", Jackson said, turning back to ask her follow-up.

The Russian claims against the Americans, including former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, relate to allegations of fraud and corruption.

Later, Ms Vega tweeted that the president had been looking directly at her when he answered. "So when he sees that he has misspoken, he comes out and he says that". However, Fabian yielded his time back to Jackson, allowing her to finish.

"There's been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia", Trump said. However, Trump was later criticized for his insufficiently tough stance on Russia's alleged intervention in the 2016 United States presidential election.

Trump had earlier talked of an offer by Vladimir Putin for Russia to help with the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE has charged numerous Russian individuals - including, most recently, 12 Russian intelligence officers - in connection to cyberattacks and social media influence campaigns aimed at sowing discord among the American public to sway the election toward Trump.

"President Putin knows that better than anybody, he understands it and he's not happy about it", he added.

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