WASHINGTON — President Trump appeared to say on Wednesday that Russia was not focusing on the United States, contradicting his personal intelligence chief simply a day after promising that his administration was working to stop Kremlin interference within the upcoming midterm elections.
Hours later, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, mentioned that Mr. Trump was answering a totally different query, and that “we believe the threat still exists.”
Mr. Trump’s feedback had been the newest in a dizzying assortment of conflicting statements from Mr. Trump since he emerged from a personal assembly with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday in Helsinki, Finland. And they instantly contradict assertions from Dan Coats, the director of nationwide intelligence, who has repeatedly said that Russia continues to try to interfere with American democracy.
“These actions are persistent, they are pervasive and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy,” Mr. Coats said in a speech on Friday.
And once more on Monday: “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” Mr. Coats mentioned.
But on Wednesday, when the president was requested whether or not Russia was “still targeting” the United States, Mr. Trump mentioned: “No.”
The president’s altering statements about Russia’s intentions towards the United States underscore his sample of questioning his personal intelligence businesses. And it additionally will increase stress on Mr. Trump to reveal particulars about what he and Mr. Putin mentioned of their two-hour personal assembly, after which Mr. Trump appeared to capitulate to the longtime American adversary.
Mr. Trump’s efficiency at a joint information convention with Mr. Putin on Monday outraged critics, together with many Republican lawmakers, staunch supporters and a few of his aides. Mr. Trump instructed he took Mr. Putin’s denial over the conclusions of his personal intelligence businesses, which led to the president’s uncharacteristic clarification on Tuesday of what he mentioned he meant to convey. He mentioned he inadvertently used the wrong word when he mentioned his place about Russian interference within the 2016 elections.
Mr. Trump’s newest vacillation on Wednesday drew extra outrage, together with from his personal social gathering.
“I’m dumbfounded by the statement he does not believe that the Russians are still up to it,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, mentioned on Wednesday. “We need to reconcile the difference between him and the intelligence community. I agree with the intelligence community. Tell me why I’m wrong, Mr. President.”
Mr. Graham mentioned ignoring the risk posed by the Russians was “political malpractice” if the risk was actual. “I believe it’s real,” he mentioned.
Mr. Graham added, “If he is wrong, and the intelligence community is right and we get attacked because we didn’t prepare ourselves, that is a terrible legacy for him.”
Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, mentioned he had no cause to doubt the warnings from intelligence businesses about November’s midterm elections.
“He ought to look at the intelligence,” Mr. Burr, a Republican, mentioned of Mr. Trump.
Senator Mark Warner, the highest Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, mentioned Mr. Trump’s rejection of American intelligence put the nation’s safety in danger.
“This president continuing to deny the reality of our country under assault by Russia and other parties, it raises questions not only about Trump’s credibility but his commitment to our nation’s security,” Mr. Warner, of Virginia, mentioned.
Though the small print of the president’s assembly with Mr. Putin will not be publicly identified, Russia’s protection ministry introduced that it was ready to put in motion the unspecified agreements Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin reached.
So far, Mr. Trump has mentioned that it was a nice assembly and that America’s relationship with Russia was lastly enhancing as a results of his diplomacy. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump mentioned, “there’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”
In a collection of Twitter posts on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump boasted in regards to the success of the summit conferences and, in a single case, stirred confusion anew when he mentioned that “many people at the higher ends of intelligence” cherished his efficiency in the course of the joint information convention with Mr. Putin. It was not instantly clear which individuals Mr. Trump was referring to — very good, clever individuals or senior officers within the nation’s intelligence businesses.
Emily Cochrane and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.