Trump makes major U-turn after Putin meeting, saying he misspoke over Russian meddling in US election

Blistered by bipartisan condemnation of his embrace of a longtime US enemy, President Donald Trump sought today to "clarify" his public undermining of American intelligence agencies, saying he had misspoken when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. 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 U.S. leader.

The US President has gone into full-blown damage control. Source: 1 NEWS

His comment came — amid rising rebuke by his own party — about 27 hours after his original, widely reported statement, which he made at a 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 U.S. allies in NATO and Europe with whom Trump clashed during his frenzied Europe trip last week.

"The European countries are our friends, and the Russians are not," McConnell said.

Trump maintained Tuesday's summit with Putin went "even better" than his meeting with NATO allies.

That NATO reference carried an edge, too, since the barrage of criticism and insults he delivered in Brussels in London was hardly well-received. He dismissed it all with a new attack on an old target: the news media. He said his NATO meeting was "great" but he "had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!"

In fact, the reaction back home has been immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. "Shameful," ''disgraceful," ''weak," were a few of the comments. Makes the U.S. "look like a pushover," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

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 also 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.

Schumer also urged the Senate to take up legislation to boost security for U.S. elections and to revive a measure passed earlier by the Judiciary Committee to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.

But minority Democrats have few tools to push their priorities.

In the House, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi planned a vote today in support of the intelligence committee's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Senators had floated a similar idea earlier, but The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said sanctions may be preferable to a nonbinding resolution that amounts to "just some messaging exercise."

Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the first step was to get Pompeo to appear, "hopefully" next week.

Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important U.S. competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

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 U.S. foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns. A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party's world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any acknowledgement of Russia's election involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"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.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said. That's the part he corrected today.

He told media he has “full faith in America’s great intelligence agencies”. Source: Breakfast



Obama delivers veiled rebuke to Trump in speech - 'Politics of fear, resentment'

In his highest profile speech since leaving office, former U.S. President Barack Obama overnight denounced the policies of President Donald Trump without mentioning his name, taking aim at the "politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment," and decrying leaders who are caught lying and "just double down and lie some more."

Obama was cheered by thousands in Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium as he marked the centenary of Nelson Mandela's birth by urging respect for human rights, the free press and other values he said were under threat.

He rallied people to keep alive the ideals that the anti-apartheid activist worked for as the first black president of South Africa, including democracy, diversity, gender equality and tolerance.

Obama opened by calling today's times "strange and uncertain," adding that "each day's news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines."

"We see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business," he said.

A day after Trump met in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Obama criticised "strongman politics."

The "politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment" are on the move "at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago," Obama added.

"Those in power seek to undermine every institution ... that gives democracy meaning," he said.

The first African-American president of the United States spoke up for equality in all forms, adding: "I would have thought we had figured that out by now."

Obama praised the diversity of the World Cup champion French team, and he said that those countries engaging in xenophobia "eventually ... find themselves consumed by civil war."

He noted the "utter loss of shame among political leaders when they're caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more," warning that the denial of facts — such as climate change — could be the undoing of democracy.

But Obama reminded the crowd that "we've been through darker times. We've been through lower valleys."

He closed with a call to action: "I say if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love."

The crowd gave him a standing ovation in the chilly South African winter.

"Just by standing on the stage honoring Nelson Mandela, Obama is delivering an eloquent rebuke to Trump," said John Stremlau, professor of international relations at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg.

He called the timing of Obama's speech auspicious — one day after Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and said the commitments that defined Mandela's life are "under assault."

"Yesterday, we had Trump and Putin standing together; now we are seeing the opposing team: Obama and Mandela."

This was Obama's first trip to Africa since leaving office in 2017. Earlier this week, he stopped in Kenya, where he visited the rural birthplace of his late father.

Obama's speech noted how Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years, kept up his campaign against what appeared to be insurmountable odds to end apartheid, South Africa's harsh system of white minority rule.

Mandela, who was released from prison in 1990 and became president four years later, died in 2013 at the age of 95. He left a powerful legacy of reconciliation and diversity along with a resistance to inequality — economic and otherwise.

Since leaving the White House, Obama has shied away from public comment on the Trump administration, which has reversed or attacked his notable achievements. The U.S. under Trump has withdrawn from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal while trying to undercut the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare."

Obama's speech drew on his great admiration for Mandela, a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner whom America's first black president saw as a mentor.

When Obama was a U.S. senator, he had his picture taken with Mandela. After Obama became president he sent a copy of the photo to Mandela, who kept it in his office. Obama also made a point of visiting Mandela's prison cell and gave a moving eulogy at Mandela's memorial service in 2013, saying the South African had inspired him.

Many South Africans view Obama as a successor to Mandela because of his groundbreaking role and his support for racial equality in the U.S. and around the world.

Stremlau, who attended the speech, called it "a tough, strong condemnation of Trump and all that he stands for."

"Obama hit out at lying, insecurity and putting down others. Obama said he can't believe it is necessary to once again speak up for equality and human rights," Stremlau said. "He pulled it together in a carefully worded, measured speech, which urged all to live up to Mandela's standards and values."

The comments came in his first high profile speech since his US presidency ended. Source: Breakfast

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Trump unfazed by broad condemnation of Putin summit, says it went 'even better' than meeting with NATO allies

Unbowed by the broad condemnation of his extraordinary embrace of a longtime US enemy, President Donald Trump declared today that his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin went "even better" than his meeting with NATO allies last week in Brussels.

The tweeted defence came a day after Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election to his benefit, and he seemed to accept Putin's insistence that Moscow's hands were clean.

Trump's reference to his NATO performance carried an edge, too, since the barrage of criticism and insults he delivered there was not generally well-received.

He dismissed it all with a new attack on an old target: the news media.

He said his NATO meeting was "great" but he "had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!"

In fact, the reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics.

"Shameful," ''disgraceful," ''weak," were a few of the comments.

Trump’s failure back up claims from US intelligence agencies came as he met President Putin in Helsinki. Source: 1 NEWS

Makes the US "look like a pushover," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

As criticism mounted, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Trump would speak today about the Helsinki meeting.

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 also 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.

Schumer also urged the Senate to take up legislation to boost security for US elections and to revive a measure passed earlier by the Judiciary Committee to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.

But minority Democrats have few tools to push their priorities.

In the House, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi planned a vote today in support of the intelligence committee's findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Senators had floated a similar idea earlier, but The No. 2 Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said sanctions may be preferable to a nonbinding resolution that amounts to "just some messaging exercise."

Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the first step was to get Pompeo to appear, "hopefully" next week.

Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important US competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

In Finland’s capital the US President said there’s no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote. Source: Breakfast

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.

A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party's world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any acknowledgement of Russia's election involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"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.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.

His skepticism drew a quick formal statement — almost a rebuttal — from Trump's director of national Intelligence, Dan Coats.

"We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security," Coats said.

Fellow GOP politicians have generally stuck with Trump during a year and a half of turmoil, but he was assailed as seldom before as he returned home Tuesday from what he had hoped would be a proud summit with Putin.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona was most outspoken, declaring that Trump made a "conscious choice to defend a tyrant" and achieved "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who rarely criticizes Trump, stressed there was "no question" that Russia had interfered.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul emerged as one of the president's few defenders from his own party.

He defended Trump's skepticism to CBS News today citing the president's experience on the receiving end of "partisan investigations."

Back at the White House, Paul's comments drew a presidential tweet of gratitude. "Thank you @RandPaul, you really get it!" Trump tweeted.

In all, Trump's remarks amounted to an unprecedented embrace of a man who for years has been isolated by the US and Western allies for actions in Ukraine, Syria and beyond.

And it came at the end of an extraordinary trip to Europe in which Trump had already berated allies, questioned the value of the NATO alliance and demeaned leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May.

In Helsinki, Putin said he had indeed wanted Trump to win the election — a revelation that might have made more headlines if not for Trump's performance — but had taken no action to make it happen.

"Yes, I wanted him to win because he spoke of normalization of Russian-US ties," Putin said.

"Isn't it natural to feel sympathy to a person who wanted to develop relations with our country? It's normal."

The controversy is being hailed as a propaganda victory for the Russian President. Source: 1 NEWS