President “Clarifies” Statement at Helsinki Press Conference


President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he meets with members of Congress in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Washington. Trump says he meant the opposite when he said in Helsinki that he doesn't see why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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Blistered by bipartisan condemnation of his embrace of a longtime US enemy, President Trump sought Tuesday to ‘‘clarify’’ his public undermining a day earlier of American intelligence agencies, saying he had misspoken when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 US election.

‘‘The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia’’ instead of ‘‘why it would,’’ Trump said, in a rare admission of error by the bombastic US leader.

His comment came amid rising rebuke by his own party, about 27 hours after his original, widely reported statement, which he made at a Monday summit in Helsinki standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. ‘

‘I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,’’ Trump said Tuesday. But he added, as he usually does, ‘‘It could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all.’’

Moments earlier, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a public reassurance to US allies in NATO and Europe with whom Trump clashed during his frenzied Europe trip last week. In fact, the reaction back home has been immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. On Capitol Hill, top Republican leaders said they were open to slapping fresh sanctions on Russia but showed no signs of acting any time soon.

‘‘Let’s be very clear, just so everybody knows: Russia did meddle with our elections,’’ said House Speaker Paul Ryan. ‘‘What we intend to do is make sure they don’t get away with it again and to help our allies.’’

In the Senate, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials to appear before Congress and tell exactly what happened during Trump’s two-hour private session with Putin. His remarks, siding with a foe on foreign soil over his own government, was a stark illustration of Trump’s willingness to upend decades of US foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns.

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