Trump says Russia no longer targeting US

Claim at odds with assessment made earlier this week by top intelligence official
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Russia is no longer targeting the U.S., clashing with an assessment given earlier this week by one of his top intelligence officials.
Trump was asked by reporters if Russia “is still targeting the U.S.” as the president continues to wrangle with a bevy of criticism following remarks he made regarding Russia’s alleged effort to sway the 2016 election.
The president’s response to the shouted question was succinct: “Thank you very much. No.”
The White House later disputed Trump’s “no” was in response to the question, saying instead he was declining to take questions.
“The president said thank you very much and was saying ‘no’ to answering questions,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. “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.”
The comments, as they were made, are in direct conflict with a public assessment one of his top intelligence officials made earlier this week.
On Monday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement in which he said Russia’s “pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy” are “ongoing”.
Intelligence agencies determined in January 2017 that Russia, operating under President Vladimir Putin’s direction, sought to sway the outcome of the 2016 White House race through a multi-faceted effort aimed at undercutting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Putin has denied any Russian involvement.
Trump has faced a torrent of bipartisan criticism following his remarks during a summit with Putin in which he said he has “great confidence” in the U.S. intelligence community but added “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today”.
Putin “just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump walked those statements back Tuesday, maintaining that the “would” he said should have been “wouldn’t”.
“The sentence should’ve been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,'” Trump said at the White House. “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.”
While that explanation assuaged the concerns of some of Trump’s closest allies, Republicans less friendly to the president remain deeply critical, along with their Democratic counterparts.
“I would say that I completely believe President Trump misspoke and that he has full faith and confidence in the members of our intelligence community and understands that Putin and Russia were fully responsible for intervening in our election,” Representative Adam Schiff said sarcastically on Twitter. “Sorry. I meant wouldn’t.”
Responding to Trump’s comments on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the microblogging site: “Mr. President. Walk this back too.”
The White House separately said Trump is mulling the possibility of allowing Russia to interview senior U.S. officials, including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
“The President’s going to meet with his team and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” Sanders said.
During their summit, Putin offered to allow representatives from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team to interview 12 Russian intelligence officers who were indicted last week on charges of hacking related to the 2016 election.
Mueller’s team is probing the alleged Russian meddling and possible Trump campaign collusion.
In exchange, Putin said he is seeking to have the U.S. allow Russian authorities to question “officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services” of the U.S.–AA

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