After claiming Tuesday that he supported the U.S. intelligence community assessment (ICA) that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, President Trump told reporters Wednesday that the nation-state is no longer targeting the U.S.
"There has never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been," he said before telling a reporter "no" when asked if Russia was still a threat and directly contradicting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats's warning of Russia's "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy." Coats, noting that the "lights are blinking red again" as they did prior to 9/11, also had called for the U.S. to better secure its critical infrastructure against attacks.
The president's latest comments come a day after he declared support for the U.S. intelligence community and clarified statements made in Helsinki in which he appeared to accept the Russian president's denial that his government interfered in the U.S. presidential election.
"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump had said at a press conference Tuesday.
Shortly after emerging from a more than two-hour private meeting with Putin in Helsinki Monday, Trump said, "President Putin, he just said it's not Russia, let me just say, I don't see any reason why it would be."
But at the Tuesday press conference, the president explained he'd reviewed a transcript of his Helsinki comments and "In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't.'"
Trump has long voiced skepticism of the U.S. intelligence community's findings that Russia, through a series of cyberattacks and an influence campaign, interfered with the election. He has often decried Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russian probe as folly and a witch hunt. Prior to the Helsinki summit, Mueller indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers for the DNC hack and other cyberactivities.
Even after voicing support for the intelligence community Tuesday, Trump noted, "It could be other people also. A lot of people out there."