President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump lawyers to Supreme Court: Jan. 6 committee 'will not be harmed by delay' Two House Democrats announce they won't seek reelection DiCaprio on climate change: 'Vote for people that are sane' MORE said in an early morning tweet on Wednesday that "people at the higher ends of intelligence loved [his] press conference performance" alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, which was widely condemned.
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki," he said. "Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”
So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
Trump sparked a firestorm on Monday when he blamed the U.S. for straining relations between Washington and Moscow and seemed to accept Putin’s denial that the Kremlin attempted to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, despite the assessment from Trump’s own intelligence agencies.
Former U.S. intelligence officials told The Hill that Trump's statement was damaging to the intel community as a whole, and likely hurt morale across agencies.
Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsAn independent commission should review our National Defense Strategy Overnight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE quickly defended the U.S. intelligence finding after Trump's comments, calling the conclusion "fact-based" and the Russian efforts "ongoing” and “pervasive.”
And former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Israeli defense chiefs discuss Iran US ends combat mission against ISIS in Iraq, but troops remain This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead MORE on Monday went so far as to describe the president's conduct as "nothing short of treasonous."
Trump on Tuesday sought to clarify his initial remarks, saying he accepts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
But he also said “other people” could have been involved, echoing past comments.
“I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said, reading from a prepared statement.
But he added: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
Trump also said on Tuesday that he meant to say during the press conference that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible for election interference.
“I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be,” he said on Monday in Finland.
On Tuesday, he 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.”
--Jacqueline Thomsen contributed to this report, which was updated at 7:44 a.m.