Posted: 1:10 pm Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
By Jamie Dupree
For the second time this week, President Donald Trump publicly went against the findings of the U.S. Intelligence Community with respect to Russian efforts to undermine election activities in the United States, as the President shot down a question about whether Russia was still engaged in activities like their 2016 interference in the U.S. elections.
“Is Russia still targeting the U.S.?” a reporter asked, as the President wrapped up a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
“Thank you very much. No,” President Trump said firmly as he shook his head, giving an answer that again runs counter to what American intelligence agencies have been warning for months, that Russia is looking for a repeat of their 2016 interference efforts.
Three hours later, the White House disputed that, maintaining the President was saying, ‘No’ to answering questions from the press – even though he went on to answer questions from reporters.
BREAKING: Asked if Russia is still targeting US, Trump says 'no,' contradicting election warnings from intelligence chief
— AP Politics (@AP_Politics) July 18, 2018
"No,” President Trump says when asked if Russia is targeting the US https://t.co/eszpyDpaDt
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 18, 2018
President Trump responds 'No' when asked if Russia is still targeting the United States pic.twitter.com/oy9xeUI0FM
— Axios (@axios) July 18, 2018
.@PressSec: "The president was–said 'thank you very much' and was saying 'no' to answering questions."
— CSPAN (@cspan) July 18, 2018
After saying ‘no’ – whether to the question about Russia targeting the U.S., or that he didn’t want to answer questions, the President then answered another reporter’s question, and said several times that he has been tough on Russia.
“There’s never been a President as tough on Russia as I have been,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, especially the media.”
On Monday, after Mr. Trump had seemingly sided with the denial of Vladimir Putin at a joint news conference in Finland, the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, quickly issued a statement reiterating that the U.S. firmly believes Russia meddled in the 2016 election, noting “their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
Mr. Trump then clarified his comments on Tuesday, in a statement read to reporters – but Wednesday’s remarks seemed to take him back to square one – where the President argues that the Russians are not coming after the U.S.
The President’s answer puts him squarely at odds as well with many in both parties in the Congress, who fully believe that Russia is still actively engaged in efforts to meddle with the 2018 and 2020 elections in the United States.
A BIG discrepancy between President Trump’s statement and DNI Coates’ warning.
It’s imperative we get to the bottom of what is going on so we can be prepared to protect ourselves in advance of the 2018 elections.
My personal view: the Russians are at again.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2018
FLAKE on Pres Trump’s ‘No’ answer: “I don’t know why it’s so hard to concede they’re still at it.”
“All of us are puzzled by it, just still trying to figure out why in the world the president would say what he did in Helsinki and then say what he did again today.”
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) July 18, 2018
The Russians continue efforts to undermine Western democracies, including ours. The President is wrong and needs to heed the warnings from our Intelligence Community, including DNI Dan Coats.
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) July 18, 2018
“OMG. OMG. OMG,” wrote Michael Hayden on Twitter, a former Director of the CIA and National Security Agency.
“Mr. President. Walk this back too,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer.
“Trump lying to the American people,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), “denying Russia is targeting our elections.”