Seeking to diminish controversy over his meeting with Putin, Trump said he had warned Putin the US is "not going to have" election meddling. Trump's recent remarks have put him at odds with US intelligence agencies.
After Donald Trump faced a slew of criticism for apparently siding with Vladimir Putin during a press conference in Helsinki, the US leader added a new element to his account of the summit on Wednesday.
Trump said he had personally warned Putin against election meddling during his meeting with the Russian president.
"I let him know we can't have this, we're not going to have it, and that's the way it's going to be," Trump said in an interview with the American CBS cable network.
Previously, Trump was forced to walk back his Helsinki statements, where he was asked about the Kremlin's alleged interference and replied by saying that Putin "just said it's not Russia."
"I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said in Helsinki. After coming home, however, Trump said he had "misspoke" during the conference.
"The sentence should have been: 'I don't see any reason why I wouldn't' or 'why it wouldn't be Russia," he told reporters at the White House.
In the CBS interview, Trump asserted he was leading a hard-line policy on Russia.
"There has never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been," he said. "President Putin knows this better than anybody, certainly better than the media."
'No' to what?
Just hours before the CBS interview was broadcast, the White House was forced to clarify another statement Trump gave at a Cabinet meeting earlier on Wednesday.
When asked if Russia was continuing to target the US, Trump shook his head and said "No."
This, however, seemed to put Trump once again in opposition to US intelligence agencies, specifically an earlier statement by National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, who said Moscow was involved in "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."
In a later briefing, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that Trump's "no" actually meant he was not taking any more questions from reporters.
The threat, according to Sanders, "still exists, which is why we are taking steps to prevent it."
Trump's statements in Helsinki and his shifting account of the events prompted protest from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. On Wednesday, the Democrats pushed for Congress to subpoena Trump's interpreter to provide details on Trump's conversation with Putin.
dj/rc (AFP, AP, dpa)