WASHINGTON — If Tuesday was supposed to be a clean-up job for President Trump, he picked up a single empty can — but left all the other spilled garbage on the kitchen floor.
Before a discussion on tax reform with Republican lawmakers, Trump said he misspoke in Helsinki for saying he didn’t see why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 election. "I thought that I made myself very clear, but having just reviewed the transcript...I realized that there is a need for some clarification," Trump said, per NBC News. "The sentence should have been...'I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.’” (Ah, the double-negative defense!)
Trump also said he had full faith in the U.S. intelligence community’s findings. “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.” But he added this, which appeared to undercut that full faith: “Could be other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.”
To be clear about the entirety of Trump’s remarks with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, however, here are the president’s OTHER remarks from Monday that he didn’t try to clean up:
- “I hold both countries responsible [for the decline in U.S.-Russian relations]. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.”
- “I think that the [Mueller] probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”
- “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the [DNC's] server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that.”
- “What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”
- “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
- “And what [Putin] did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 [indicted Russians]. I think that’s an incredible offer.” (By the way, Putin’s condition for that offer? That Americans and U.S. residents who Russia believes have committed illegal actions should be questioned, too.)
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So what should be the major takeaway? That Trump tried to clean up a couple of statements from his meeting with Putin? Or that didn’t walk back EVERYTHING ELSE he said in Helsinki.
Trump: “So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press performance in Helsinki”
And just to emphasize how yesterday’s remarks really weren’t a real walk-back, here are two of Trump’s tweets from this morning:
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”
“Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”
Trump questions NATO’s collective defense pact
In an interview with Fox News that aired last night, President Trump appeared to question NATO’s Article 5 – that an attack on one member state is an attack on all.
TUCKER CARLSON: So membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member who has been attacked. Let's say Montenegro - who joined last year - is attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?TRUMP: I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. They are very strong people. Very aggressive people, they make it aggressive, and congratulations, you are in World War III. I understand that's the way it was set up. Don't forget, I just got here a little more than a year and a half ago, but I took over the conversation, three or four days ago, and said you have to pay. And the secretary general said that because of President Trump last year we had an additional $44 billion – billion with a “B” – raised for NATO. This year, it's going to be much more than that, the countries all are great, it was very unfair, they weren't paying. So not only were we paying for most of it, but they weren't even paying and we're protecting them. Add that to your equation about Montenegro.
Roby wins runoff in Alabama
“U.S. Rep. Martha Roby won Alabama's Republican runoff, fighting through lingering fallout from her years-old criticism of then-candidate Donald Trump in a midterm contest that hinged on loyalty to the GOP president,” the AP writes. “The four-term incumbent will now represent the GOP on the November ballot having defeated Bobby Bright, a former Democrat who tried to cast himself as the more authentic Trump ally in the low-turnout Republican contest.”
Roby defeated Bright, 68 percent to 32 percent.
As one of us wrote yesterday, this Roby-vs.-Bright runoff presented an odd choice for GOP voters: Roby said she couldn’t support Trump in 2016 after the “Access Hollywood” tape, while Bright was a former Democratic congressman who voted for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.
Trump ended up endorsing Roby last month, and the president took credit for Roby’s win. “Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!”
Americans for Prosperity hits McCaskill in new TV ad
The Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity has launched a new $1.8 million digital and TV buy against Claire McCaskill, focusing on her record on tax reform. “McCaskill said she’d support tax cuts, but then voted against a plan that would save families $2,000,” the ad goes.
Gosar endorses Kelli Ward in Senate GOP primary in Arizona
NBC’s Ben Kamisar: “Former Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward has gotten her first primary endorsement from a member of Arizona’s congressional delegation for her Senate bid. Rep. Paul Gosar’s R-Ariz., endorsement of Ward came with a rebuke of his House colleague, Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who is leading the GOP primary field in fundraising and polling.”
“Gosar called McSally ‘likeable personally’ but said she is ‘very inconsistent politically’ and a ‘Never Trumper’ in a statement announcing his endorsement. ‘None of us can count on Martha keeping a campaign promise as she will fall for whatever the D.C. elite tells her to do at the time,’ he said.”