Misspoke on Russia meddling charge: Trump

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON

Jul 19, 2018-

President Donald Trump on Tuesday moved to limit the damage from his summit with Vladimir Putin, claiming he misspoke in appearing to accept the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling--in a rebuke to US intelligence chiefs.

At their meeting in Helsinki on Monday, Trump failed to challenge Putin over the 2016 presidential election, seeming to accept at face value the strongman’s denial that Moscow interfered in a bid to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

But faced with outrage at home, with even some of his political allies demanding that he reverse course, Trump--in an extraordinary postscript to the summit--sought to walk back his remarks.

Trump said he accepted the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in the election, and offered a rambling explanation of his assertion that he could not see “any reason” why Russia would interfere.

“In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’,” Trump said, speaking at the White House ahead of a meeting with Republican lawmakers. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative,” he added--repeating the laborious clarification several times. But while the US leader expressed his “full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies,” he insisted that “Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election.”

And he again floated the idea that “other people” could be involved. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer was quick to pounce.

“President Trump tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday. It’s 24 hours too late, and in the wrong place,” Schumer said.

‘Undermine democracy’

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign has increasingly put pressure on the White House. The president--who regards the probe as an attack on his legitimacy--has dubbed it a “witch hunt,” and again said Tuesday there were “no collusion at all.”

But the investigation is progressing, as evidenced by the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents on Friday--timing that was embarrassing ahead of the summit with Putin.

Trump initially sounded a defensive note on Tuesday, insisting his meeting with Putin had been “even better” than his one last week with traditional allies NATO--a testy gathering seen as having badly strained trans-Atlantic ties. But the US president found precious little support for his decision not to confront the Russian leader--on either side of the political aisle. By Tuesday afternoon when he faced the cameras, Trump had changed tack.

 

Efforts to split EU ‘in vain’, says Juncker

BRUSSELS: European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said US efforts to split the EU on trade “are in vain,” in a message on Wednesday to President Trump before their talks next week.

Juncker, who heads the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, will visit the White House on July 25 to try to convince Trump to drop tariffs on metals and avoid further duties on cars. He told a press conference that he “would like to make the US president understand” a key point on trade while admitting he had tried unsuccessfully with him before.

“The EU and its single market are indivisible,” the former Luxembourg premier said when asked about Trump’s bid for bilateral deals. “All the efforts to divide the Europeans are in vain,” Juncker said. “It seems to me all these efforts to have bilateral ties, which must take place between our partners and the commission and therefore the EU, must be better explained,” he added.

‘No time limit to denuclearise NKorea’

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Tuesday there is no hurry to denuclearise North Korea under his accord with Kim Jong-un--a shift in tone from when the US leader said the process would start very soon.

“Discussions are ongoing and they’re going very, very well,” Trump told reporters. “We have no time limit. We have no speed limit.”

Trump said he discussed North Korea with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday at their summit in Helsinki. “President Putin is going to be involved in the sense that he is with us,” Trump said. The Republican president met with Kim on June 12 for an unprecedented summit in Singapore during which the North Korean leader pledged to work toward denuclearization of the peninsula.

But the accord did not spell out a timetable for the process. More than a month later, no concrete progress has been reported and North Korea has said the Americans are making unilateral demands.

Published: 19-07-2018 08:48

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