- Trump made the first major climbdown of his presidency Tuesday over his press conference with Putin - but with a truculent tone and a dig at his own spies
- He then tweeted on Tuesday night calling his Putin summit a 'great success'
- His own party had flamed him over his equivalence of U.S. intelligence agencies with Putin's denial at Helsinki press conference
- Reading from a prepared statement he said he misspoke when he stood beside Vladimir Putin and said he 'saw no reason why it would be' Russia
- 'The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia,' Trump said. 'I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself'
- Trump said he was surprised by the firestorm that awaited him when he arrived on Monday in Washington and realized he needed to 'clear up' his comments
- Statement, at a White House round table with Republicans, took surreal twist as John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff, turned out the lights by mistake
- Then Trump quipped: 'That must be the intelligence agencies'
- Even allies of the president were telling him on Tuesday that he needed to 'reverse course' and issue a clarification
- He scrawled a misspelled addition to the script saying: 'there was no colusion'
- But some television commentators compared it to a 'hostage video' - setting up the possibility of further angry backlash from Trump against the coverage
President Trump has called his Helsinki summit with Vladimir Putin a 'huge success' just hours after saying that he misspoke when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 US election.
A defiant Trump tweeted Tuesday night that the 'meeting between President Putin and myself was a great success, except in the Fake News Media!'
It came just hours after he spoke directly to cameras on Tuesday afternoon in an effort to blunt criticism of a press conference with Putin at which he let the Russian president off the hook for election interference.
Glancing at a printed statement that he had marked up with hand-written edits throughout his remarks, Trump said he accepts his intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the election - although it could be other people also - and said he meant to say yesterday that he had no reason to doubt the professionals within his administration.
'I accept our intelligence community conclusion that Russian meddling in the 2016 election took place,' Trump said. 'Could be other people also, a lot of people out there,' he added. 'There's no collusion at all.'
And there was a second dig at his own most senior spies as Trump's chief of staff John Kelly accidentally switched off the lights, plunging the White House cabinet room into temporary darkness and prompting Trump to quip: 'That must be the intelligence agencies.'
Trump said he was surprised by the firestorm that awaited him when he arrived on Monday in Washington and realized he needed to 'clear up' his comments after reviewing the transcript of his presser with Putin. The president said that he has the 'greatest respect' for his intelligence chiefs.
'The sentence should have been, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia,' Trump said. 'So you can put that in. I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.'
President Trump in the first major retreat of his administration said that he misspoke at his Helsinki summit when he said that he had 'no reason' to think that Russia meddled in the 2016 election
Trump's senior advisers stood on the edges of the room as he delivered the remarks that preceded a session with GOP lawmakers on tax reform. National Security Adviser John Bolton and the president's daughter Ivanka looked on as Trump made his unprecedented about-face.
Lingering in the back of the room, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, accidentally turned off the lights, temporarily darkening the room, according to a Washington Post photographer who was part of the press pool.
'Whoops they just turned off the lights, that must be the intelligence agencies,' Trump joked in response. 'That was strange. But that's okay.'
The incident had a tinge of irony as the White House scrambled Tuesday to the veil darkness that had been cast over the president's Helsinki summit.
Trump stressed in 15 minutes of remarks that he did not mean to give Putin a pass for election hacking. In fact, he said, unlike his predecessor, 'who totally buried it,' his administration, by contrast, 'has taken a very firm stance' against Russia's bad behavior.
'President Obama was given information just prior to the election, last election 2016 and they decided to not do anything about it. The reason they decided not to do that was pretty obvious because they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election,' he charged.
Tight shots of the president's statement revealed that he had scribbled out a section that instructed him to say, 'Now, I understand there are some in Washington who don't want diplomacy. This rejection of diplomacy is the same mindset that dragged us into Iraq and Libya.'
The president had clearly marked up notes given to him by aides before the remarks
OOPS: Lingering in the back of the room, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly bushed up against up the light switch - shutting it off in the middle of the address
Trump had several edits to the copy that his communications aides drafted for him, one of which was, 'There was no collusion'
He also skipped over a line that said 'any fool can start a war but real courage is forging peace.'
The president said that he had planned to have a news conference this week to capitalize on the success of his foreign trip.
Instead his emergency statement was followed by no questions, and no White House briefing.
'We have never been in a worse relationship with Russia than we are as of a few days ago,' he said, 'and I think that's gotten substantially better.'
'So I'll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies. Always have. And I have felt very strongly that, while Russia's actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election,' he said.
And then, in the biggest backtrack of his presidency Trump said, 'It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn't. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't.'
'The sentence should have been: I don't see any reason why I wouldn't — or why it wouldn't be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't.'
'And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia. Sort of a double negative.'
Trump said: 'I have, on numerous occasions, noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections. Unlike previous administrations, my administration has and will continue to move aggressively to repeal any efforts — and repel — we will stop it, we will repel it — any efforts to interfere in our elections. We're doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018. '
The White House signaled that Trump would making significant remarks on the subject when it said in a lunchtime announcement that a 2 pm meeting with Members of Congress that had been closed to press would be opened up so that the president could make remarks on his trip to Finland.
Afterwards the White House released a lengthy bullet point list of what it said were actions which showed it was tough on Russia.
But on television, commentators called his statement a 'hostage video' - a reaction which is likely to prompt its own angry backlash from Trump as he watches television coverage of the statement.
Trump has been raked over the coals for claiming that Russia had 'no reason' as far as he can see to have carried out an election hacking scheme that his own intelligence officials have linked to the Kremlin.
He said that while he has 'great confidence' in his intelligence officers, 'President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial' that it directly involved Russia.
Arriving in the U.S. on Monday night, the president ignored questions from reporters. He let a Fox News interview he did with Sean Hannity just before his Helsinki departure be the final word that day on the controversial summit.
The president launched a late defense of his meeting with Putin as Democrats and the media panned as 'treasonous,' 'disgusting,' and 'disgraceful.' Not only was it great, he said on Twitter, it was 'even better' than one he had a few days prior with America's security alliance.
As he weathered heavy criticism for fawning over the strongman who the U.S. intelligence community says was behind 2016 hacking, Trump declared victory in his Helsinki and NATO summits.
He settled on a regular target for characterizing his Putin presser as anything less than a success -- the media.
'While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!' he said.
President Trump said Tuesday that not only was his meeting with Vladimir Putin great - it was better than one he had a few days prior with America's security alliance
The usual suspects had torn into the president for complimenting Putin and siding against U.S. intelligence officers in their assessment that the Kremlin ordered the 2016 election disruption, but so had prominent hosts on Fox News
The usual suspects had torn into the president for complimenting Putin and siding against U.S. intelligence officers in their assessment that the Kremlin ordered the 2016 election disruption.
But Trump was also taking fire from Fox News hosts, including Shep Smith and Neil Cavuto, and members of his inner circle like Anthony Scaramucci and Newt Gingrich.
Former CIA director John Brennan had blasted Trump's press conference with Putin on Monday as 'nothing short of treasonous' in high profile remarks, as well.
He accused the president of being 'wholly in the pocket of Putin' and the presser 'rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.'
'It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???,' said Brennan, who served as the nation's intelligence chief when the meddling was occurring during the presidency of Barack Obama.
Trump told Tucker Carlson in a Fox News interview airing Tuesday that was taped after the comment: 'I think Brennan is a very bad guy, and if you look at it, a lot of things happened under his watch.
'I think he's a very bad person,' the president contended.
Republican Sen. John McCain also labeled Trump's press conference 'one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in history,' and House speaker Paul Ryan said, 'Russia is not our ally.'
And Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, tweeted: 'What do the Russians have on @realDonaldTrump personally, financially, & politically?'
GOP Sen. Ben Sasse said Tuesday on Fox, 'This isn't complicated' and there is 'no moral equivalency' between the Untied States and Russia.
'Putin is a thug and he attacked America,' he said. 'Man we were weak yesterday on the global stage.'
Sasse called Trump's public comments about Putin 'goofy' and 'bizarre' at the news conference where the Russian leader awarded Trump the World Cup championship game ball.
Trump roundly blamed the media for the failure of his summit, arguing that it was the 'fake news' that was blowing him up.
Yet, even his former White House communications director, Scaramucci, was advising him on Tuesday to 'reverse course immediately' and correct what he characterized on CNN as a 'major mistake.'
He added: 'This is not a mistake of words, by the way, this is not a bad PR kerfuffle. This is a mistake of strategy and execution. This is a mistake of thinking.'
'The President is conflating the two issues. He's tying the collusion accusation to the irrefutable evidence that the Russians meddled in the election,' the ex-Trump said.
Scaramucci said Trump has 'got to knock it off,' or else 'unnatural alliances will build up in Washington and outside of Washington.'
On 'Fox & Friends,' the influential morning show in the Trump era because the president is known to watch it every day, host Brian Kilmeade conceded that Trump had made an unforced error.
Kilmeade said Trump's conduct was 'something that needs to be corrected' and suggested he take to Twitter to address the criticism.
'It's correctable. It's still early. He can start by even tweeting something out today,' Kilmeade said.
Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo went even further on her daytime show, 'Mornings with Maria,' contending that Trump's press conference was 'probably the low point of the presidency so far' and asserting there is 'no question' Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
'But the president didn't want to address it in front of Vladimir Putin,' she said, 'which is a head-scratcher.'
Back from an off-site event, Ivanka Trump was at the White House on Tuesday to participate in the tax reform event where the president made the remarks
The White House announced later in the day that President Trump would defend his Helsinki summit directly to cameras in an effort to blunt criticism.
Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said a 2 pm meeting with Members of Congress that had been closed to press would be opened up so that the president could make remarks on his trip to Finland.
Trump was still being raked over the coals for claiming that Russia had 'no reason' as far as he can see to have carried out an election hacking scheme that his own intelligence officials have linked to the Kremlin.
Sen. Rand Paul, an unlikely figure within the GOP, emerged as the president's sole defender as President Trump continued to take a beating.
The libertarian lawmaker, who has been a swing vote for Trump's agenda, said that the Republican president had been unfairly hit with an 'onslaught' of allegations since he took office, when it was Hillary Clinton's campaign that is known to have funded a dossier of dirt on her opponent.
Trump promptly rewarded him with a tweet that proclaimed 'you really get it' as he watched the bad reviews of his performance in Helsinki roll in.
A day before, Trump had said that while he has 'great confidence' in his intelligence officers, 'President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial' that it directly involved Russia.
An unlikely figure within the GOP came to the president's defense on Tuesday morning as President Trump took a beating in the press for his news conference with Vladimir Putin -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul
Putin on Monday denied Russia had any role in the election and offered to interrogate a dozen of his country's nationals who were indicted last Friday in the special counsel investigation.
Asked at a joint news conference with Putin if believed his Russian counterpart or his intelligence chiefs, Trump said he doesn't 'see any reason' why Putin's government would have hacked the Democratic National Committee.
'My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it's Russia,' the president said of his director of national intelligence. 'I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia.'
He added: 'I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.'
Trump said, '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 he 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 people. I think that's an incredible offer,' Trump said.
Brennan expressed total disbelief at Trump's news conference.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who served during the Obama administration, said it was 'truly unbelievable.'
'On the world's stage, in front of the entire globe, the President of the United States essentially capitulated and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin. So it was amazing and very, very disturbing,' Clapper said Monday on CNN.
WASN'T ME: Asked at a joint news conference with Putin if believed his Russian counterpart or his intelligence chiefs, Trump said he doesn't 'see any reason' why Putin's government would have hacked the Democratic National Committee
Trump's current DNI, Coats, countered Trump in a statement and said that Russia was clearly involved in the interference in the last election.
'We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,' he said in a statement on Monday, 'and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.'
Trump tweeted from Air Force One on Monday as he travelled back to the United States that he has 'GREAT confidence' in his intelligence team but 'in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past.'
'As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.' However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018,' he wrote.