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Trump’s messy cleanup job after Helsinki

President Donald Trump meets with members of Congress

President Donald Trump meets with members of Congress on Wednesday after bipartisan criticism for his handling of a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock / Michael Reynolds

Oh, for want of a contraction.

That was President Donald Trump’s preposterous explanation Tuesday to stop the avalanche of criticism of his embarrassing performance in Helsinki alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump said that after he reviewed a transcript of their news conference he realized he had said “would” instead of “wouldn’t” in a key sentence about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Reading from a prepared script, much like a hostage, Trump said he meant to say, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”

This revision come hours after Trump doubled down on how well he did in Helsinki, and after a White House meeting called to do damage control against the mounting global firestorm. It simply doesn’t pass the smell test.

Trump said he accepts the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia did meddle in the election. But Trump has said that before, only to resume trashing our intelligence agencies. Even after this latest epiphany, he followed with an unscripted remark: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

The deflecting continued with comments about there being no collusion with Russians and no impact from their election intrusions. He’s still missing the point. Russia attacked our democracy and he needed to say that to Putin’s face.

Perhaps the most consequential thing Trump said Tuesday is that his administration will work aggressively to “repel” any efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2018 elections. The proof will be in what Trump and his administration actually do. For now, his vow is only words from a man whose word has meant little. 


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