Trump Clarifies His Putin Remarks After Backlash: ‘I Believe That He Believes’ He Didn’t Meddle In The Election

President Trump had a chance to perform a walk-back maneuver after creating a huge mess over Russian election meddling, but he may have made things worse. To briefly recap, Trump talked with Putin in Vietnam, and the U.S. president then fretted over Putin feeling insulted: “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.” Not only that, but Trump tossed the “political hacks” label upon Ex-CIA Director John Brennan, Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Ex-FBI Director James Comey. So, John McCain lashed out to brand Trump as “naive” for believing Putin, and a backlash commenced.

Well, Sunday saw Trump express surprise to reporters about his comments creating a stir, and then he officially (well, sort of) sided with U.S. intelligence agencies on the matter while executing verbal gymnastics:

“What I said is, I believe [Putin] believes that, and that’s very important for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted, with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly,”

So, Trump’s not really walking back the comments about Comey, Clapper, and Brennan — he’s mostly siding with the current leaders of their respective intelligence agencies. The president’s waffling arrives long after the leaking of a secret CIA report that confirmed that it was “quite clear” that Russia hacked in order to get Trump elected. This was followed by an FBI endorsement of that conclusion and the bureau’s own detailed overview of how the hacking happened. Then came the top secret NSA report that revealed how Russian hacked the U.S. mere days before the election.

In other words, Trump had little choice but to perform a walk back on U.S. intelligence, but he’s standing firm on his feelings for the former leaders. Yet as if to reinforce U.S. intel’s stance on the matter, James Clapper appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. To Jake Tapper, #CNNSOTU Clapper said, “The Russians do not harbor good intentions toward the United States, and there shouldn’t be any illusions or any ambiguity about that. And our President fosters that ambiguity.”

Likewise, John Brennan has no clue why Trump didn’t publicly condemn Putin for Russia’s meddling. It’s “puzzling,” says Brennan.

(Via MSNBC, Buzzfeed News & CNN)