Overnight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart

Overnight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart
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THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE on Tuesday sought to distance himself from his bizarre and extraordinary remarks made a day prior in a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, blaming the media for mischaracterizing his words.

Trump sought to quell criticism, saying he accepts the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump also claimed he misspoke on election meddling during his meeting with Putin, saying he meant to say that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible.

What happened at the summit: During the Monday press conference, which capped off the two leaders' summit in Helsinki, Trump refused to denounce Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, siding with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community.

"They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia," Trump said.

"I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump added.

Trump also recapped his election win, reiterated his complaints that the FBI had not examined servers belonging to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton to headline trio of DNC fundraisers: report Allegations of ‘Trump TV’ distract from real issues at Broadcasting Board of Governors Chelsea Clinton: Politics a 'definite maybe' in the future MORE's campaign, referenced a conspiracy theory involving a former House Democratic staffer and mentioned Clinton's allegedly "missing" emails -- the same ones he encouraged Russian hackers to find during the election.

Trump's new remarks: After coming under intense pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers and a number of voices in conservative media, Trump on Tuesday said he should have said, "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia."

"It should have been obvious," he added. "So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things."

But the president also muddled the walk-back by saying that "other people" also could have been involved in the meddling, a statement similar to remarks he has made in the past casting doubt on Moscow's involvement.

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump said, reading from a prepared statement before a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House.

Then, in an unscripted moment, the president added: "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

GOP leaders seek to assure NATO: Republicans on Capitol Hill were surrounded by reporters asking questions about Trump's performance on Tuesday. Amid the controversy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell15 senators miss votes despite McConnell's criticism of absentees Overnight Health Care: Azar defends approach on drug rebates | Trump presses Senate to act quickly on opioid crisis | Kentucky governor's Medicaid lawsuit tossed Dem senator introduces proposal to rein in Trump on security clearances MORE (R-Ky.) took the step of reassuring NATO allies that the U.S. was with them.

"We value the NATO treaty," McConnell declared at a weekly press conference.

"We believe the European Union counties are our friends and the Russians are not," he continued. "We understand the Russian threat."

But Trump criticism lingers: The remarks from the White House were intended to quickly end a controversy that had sucked up all of the media's attention and rattled Republicans months ahead of the midterm elections.

But Trump's attempted turnaround is unlikely to end criticism from Democrats and other critics of his foreign trip.

"I don't accept the president's comments today," said Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Defense: Pentagon says Trump canceled parade before cost briefing | Erik Prince renews push for contractors to run Afghan war | More officials join outcry over security clearances Dem senator introduces proposal to rein in Trump on security clearances Schumer blasts Trump over security clearances: This happens in dictatorships MORE (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that is probing Russia's election interference, adding, "He should have had the strength to make them in front of Vladimir Putin."

Warner likened Trump's response to his initial walk-back of his comments blaming "both sides" for racially charged violence at last year's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., which he took back days later.

"I give these comments about 24 hours before he once again slams the investigation, before he once again sides with authoritarians like Vladimir Putin," Warner said.

Helsinki summit caps off turbulent trip: The summit in Helsinki, at which Trump refused to denounce Russia's election meddling, was the culmination of a turbulent trip that also saw Trump roil NATO allies in Brussels and undercut the British prime minister on her home turf.

The Hill's Rebecca Kheel has the day-by-day breakdown of Trump's journey.

Here are more stories from The Hill on the fallout from the Trump-Putin summit:

-- Flake to Trump: 'Fake news' didn't side with Putin, you did

-- GOP senator: Republican lawmakers should 'take back our authority' after Helsinki summit

-- Former Intel panel chairman says Trump betrayed US intelligence community

-- Ex-CIA official: I'd advise intel leaders to consider resigning after Trump comments

-- House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor 

-- Ryan: Trump's conference with Putin not treasonous

-- Former Trump aide says he canceled CNN appearance over 'atrocious' Helsinki coverage

-- Trump: 'Phony witch hunt' drove wedge between US, Russia

 

RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY READY TO BOOST COOPERATION WITH US: Russia's Defense Ministry on Tuesday said it stands ready to step up cooperation with the U.S. on international security matters outlined by Trump and Putin at their summit.

"The Russian Defense Ministry is ready for practical implementation of the agreements in the sphere of international security reached by Russian and U.S. Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at their Monday summit in Helsinki," Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the ministry said, according to the Russian state-run news agency TASS.

Konashenkov said that Russia was ready to enter into discussions about extending the New START Treaty, which places caps on deployable nuclear weapons.

As of now, that treaty is set to expire in 2021. 

Other areas of cooperation: Konashenkov also said the Russians were willing to boost cooperation with the U.S. in Syria, where the two countries have backed opposing sides in an ongoing seven-year civil war.

"The Russian Defense Ministry is ready to enliven contact with the U.S. colleagues, between our General Staffs and via other communication channels, to discuss extension of the START Treaty, cooperation in Syria, and other topical issues of military security," he stressed.

And Mattis open to meeting with Russian defense chief: Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Pentagon says Trump canceled parade before cost briefing | Erik Prince renews push for contractors to run Afghan war | More officials join outcry over security clearances Erik Prince hopeful Bolton more open to contractors for Afghan war Pentagon: Trump canceled military parade before being briefed on cost MORE is reportedly open to meeting with his Russian counterpart in upcoming months to increase cooperation and communication between the two countries' militaries.

Two senior U.S. officials told Reuters that, while Mattis has indicated that he is open to talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a first step to higher-level political talks between the two nations, Mattis is not currently seeking communication with Shoigu either in person or by telephone.

 

TRUMP TO HOST EUROPEAN COMMISSION CHIEF AT WHITE HOUSE: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will visit Trump at the White House next week, following the U.S. leader's blistering criticism of critical NATO allies and the European Union during a week-long trip to Europe.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday that Juncker would arrive at the White House on July 25 for a previously planned meeting that will focus on "improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership."

Background: Trump tore into the EU in a CBS News interview over the weekend, calling the union a "foe" of Washington because of its trade policies, which the president has long decried as one-sided and unfair to the U.S.

European Council President Donald Tusk on Sunday rejected Trump's characterization of the EU as an enemy of the U.S., saying that the two are "best friends."

"America and the EU are best friends," Tusk wrote on Twitter. "Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news."

Trump also stirred controversy during his transatlantic trip last week by fiercely criticizing British Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of her country's exit from the EU, complaining that she did not listen to his advice. May later said that Trump advised her to "sue" the union. 

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW:

Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, will speak at an Association for the United States Army breakfast at 6:30 a.m. in Arlington, Va. 

Rep. Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulWorst-case scenario for House GOP is 70-seat wipeout Hillicon Valley: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sits down with The Hill | Drama over naming DHS cyber office | Fallout over revoking Brennan's security clearance | Google workers protest censored search engine for China Name change eludes DHS cyber wing, spurring frustration MORE (R-Texas) will speak on competition with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran at 9 a.m. at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. 

Rep. Joe CourtneyJoseph (Joe) D. CourtneyOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Overnight Defense: House passes 5B defense spending bill | Pentagon moving forward on Trump military parade | Mattis vows 'ironclad' support for South Korea's defense House passes 5B Pentagon spending bill MORE (D-Conn.) will speak on national security and U.S. naval power at 11:45 a.m. at the Hudson Institute in Washington. D.C. 

U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyTreasury retweets Trump, possibly violating campaign law UN human rights chief: Trump’s anti-press rhetoric is ‘very close to incitement to violence’ Who guards the guardians? MORE will speak on the impact of the U.S. withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council and next steps at 4 p.m. at The Heritage Institute in Washington, D.C. 

 

ICYMI

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