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Sanders denies Trump said Russia no longer targeting US

The White House on Wednesday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE did not say that Russia is no longer targeting the United States, seeking to clean up Trump's earlier comments that further fueled outrage about his handling of Moscow. 

During a Cabinet meeting, Trump said "no" when asked by a reporter if he believes Russia is still seeking to meddle in U.S. political affairs.

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But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she spoke with Trump, who said he was "saying 'no' to answering questions" and not to the reporter's question itself.

"He does believe that they would target, certainly, [the] U.S. election," Sanders said.

Trump’s remarks came two days after Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist It’s not just foreign state-owned telecom posing a threat  MORE issued a statement that recognized Russia’s “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”

Coats has previously said he expects Russia to look to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections.

Other top U.S. officials have described ongoing Russian efforts to use social media and other avenues to amplify divisive issues and sow discord among the American public.

“The intelligence community continues to see Russian activity in sowing discord across the American public,” Christopher Krebs, a top Department of Homeland Security official appointed by Trump, told Congress last week. However, he said officials have not observed “anything that rises to the level of 2016.”

Sanders said Wednesday, “The president and his administration are working very hard to make sure that Russia is unable to meddle in our elections as they have done in the past.”

Trump has repeatedly stirred controversy with his remarks on Russian interference.

On Monday, while appearing in a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump appeared to cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian meddling in the election — a statement he later walked back, explaining that he misspoke and accepts the intelligence community’s conclusions.

Coats’s statement Monday defended the “fact-based” assessments of the intelligence community.

“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” Coats said.

--Updated at 3:11 p.m.