US President Donald Trump rolls back rhetoric on Russia meddling after criticism

November 12, 2017 2:13 am
President adjusts his earphone as he attends a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on November 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump has expressed confidence in the US intelligence agencies’ conclusions over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, only hours after saying he believed the words of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the issue.
Trump made the remarks during a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Sunday.
The US president met briefly with Putin at the APEC summit in Vietnam during which the Russian president rejected the accusations of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential vote.
“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,” Trump said on Saturday.
However, US intelligence chiefs insist that Russia played a role in determining the outcome of the race for the White House.
American intelligence agencies claimed in January that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to try to help Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The intelligence agencies said Moscow’s interference included a campaign of hacking and releasing embarrassing emails, and disseminating propaganda via social media to discredit her campaign.
On Sunday, Trump was asked to clarify comments he had made the day before about Putin’s insistence that Moscow had never tried to influence the US presidential election.
“I believe he feels he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said.
“As to whether or not I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies. I believe in our… intelligence agencies,” he added.
Trump is haunted by an investigation into accusations of his campaign’s collusion with Russia.
Trump’s election campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign aide Rick Gates have already been indicted on Russian-involved financial charges. Trump has rejected the allegations as a hoax.
Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, is investigating whether Trump election officials cooperated with those Russian efforts.
Sources familiar with Mueller’s investigation said he has used his broad authority to investigate links between Trump associates and foreign governments, as well as to determine whether the president or any of his aides tried to obstruct justice.
Trump has repeatedly denied allegations that his campaign colluded with Russians and has condemned the investigations. Putin has also denied the allegations.
Trump has denounced the federal investigation led by Mueller as a “witch hunt.”
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