U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday sought to walk back his remarks at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump told reporters at the White House, according to The Hill.
At the same time, he added, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
Trump also claimed he misspoke on election meddling during his meeting with Putin, saying he meant to say that he sees no reason why Russia would not be responsible.
On Monday he had said, “I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be.”
Trump said Tuesday he should have said, “I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia.”
“It should have been obvious," he added. “So you can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things.”
Trump’s comments at his press conference with Putin were widely criticized by members of both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was especially critical, labeling Trump’s press conference with Putin as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin,” McCain said in a statement.
Lawmakers and U.S. allies have said Trump's performance during his press conference with Putin undercut U.S. officials and provided a propaganda victory for the Russian leader.
The president said he has “full faith and support for America's intelligence agencies,” even as he repeated his claim that “there is no collusion” between his campaign and Russia to interfere in the election, a matter that is still under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump had initially also rejected the CIA’s assessment that Russia carried out cyberattacks during the election campaign in order to sabotage Hillary Clinton's candidacy, insisting that Democrats bitter with the results of the election were inventing excuses for their defeat.
He later accepted the intelligence assessment but has rejected any involvement on the part of his campaign in the Russian hacking.