Tapper: Trump undermined his own apology

CNN's Jake Tapper says President Trump took things to a new level with his statement clarifying his comments at the joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 2:16 AM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 2:36 AM

President Donald Trump had one clear mission when he spoke to the press Tuesday afternoon before meeting with a handful of congressional Republicans: Clean up the damage he did on Monday when he broke with the intelligence community by suggesting that Russia might not have been behind the 2016 election interference and arguing that there was blame on both sides of the matter.

"I have a full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies," Trump said, reading slowly from a page of written remarks -- a major break from his usual freewheeling style in these sorts of situations. Then, Trump added this: "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place -- could be other people also."

Focus on the five words at the end there: "Could be other people also."

Those five words not only totally undermine what Trump was trying to do with his post-Helsinki summit comments but also run afoul of the intelligence community's 2017 report on Russian interference in the election. That report, which carried the unanimous endorsement of the entire US intelligence community, said that Russia interfered in the election with the express goal of helping Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton. Nowhere else in the IC report is there a mention of another country being even possibly responsible for the broad and deep election-meddling effort focused on the 2016 campaign.

What those five words reveal is that Trump is still not at all convinced that Russia was the one who interfered in the 2016 election -- or, at a minimum, that Russia acted alone. Which means that in purposely trying to fix the mess he made by suggesting he didn't totally believe his own intelligence community, Trump made the point that he doesn't totally believe his own intelligence community.

Context matters here too. This is far from the first time that Trump has, usually under considerable political pressure, acknowledged Russia probably sought to interfere in the 2016 election only to go back on that claim in subsequent weeks or months. Here's a brief walk-through of Trump's past admissions about Russia's involvement thanks to CNN's indispensable Marshall Cohen:

  • "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people." (January 2017)
  • "I've said it very, I've said it very simply. I think it could well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries. I won't be specific, but I think a lot of people interfere." (June 2017)
  • "What I said there, I'm surprised that there's any conflict on this. What I said there is that I believe [Putin] believes that, and that's very important for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I've worked with them very strongly." (November 2017)
  • "Certainly there was meddling. Probably there was meddling from other countries." (March 2018)

And all of those statements are consistent with what Trump said on the campaign trail during the 2016 race -- including most famously/infamously this line during a debate with Clinton: "I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK? You don't know who broke in to DNC."

So when Trump said on Tuesday that "I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our election," he's not totally wrong. He has done that. Then, in the next sentence or the next day or the next week or the next month, he sought to systematically raise questions about the idea that Russia did, in fact, pursue a strategy to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The conclusion here is as obvious as the nose on your face: Donald Trump has never -- and does not now -- 100% believe that Russia ran an active campaign to meddle in the 2016 election. He will parrot the talking point when he absolutely has to -- like on Tuesday -- but, even then, he feels compelled to add those words ("could be other people also") that reveal his true feelings.

Maya Angelou had it right when she said: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."

Trump cannot hold these two competing ideas in his head: 1) That Russia sought to interfere in the election to help him and hurt Clinton and 2) He is still the President whether or not he chooses to acknowledge that first idea. To Trump, admitting Russia led a massive campaign to influence the 2016 election means that he is admitting that he didn't win fair and square or that the results are tainted. He can't see his way around that. He's willing to put aside the unanimous conclusions of his intelligence community (not to mention the Senate Intelligence Committee) and willing to believe the "very strong" assertions by the former KGB agent now running Russia instead.

The consequences of Trump's blindness on this issue are not isolated to his own political standing. They are far-reaching -- as we saw in Finland on Monday. Putin (and Russia) walked away with a massive victory on the geopolitical stage solely because the President of the United States can't understand that regardless of what Russia did in the 2016 election, he's still the President.

Remarkable. And scary.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97471

Reported Deaths: 3618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17834521
Cuyahoga13141491
Hamilton9374252
Lucas5155320
Montgomery417487
Summit3433218
Marion291045
Butler282262
Mahoning2477254
Pickaway237842
Stark1766137
Warren171136
Lorain168977
Columbiana161860
Trumbull1481105
Fairfield130931
Delaware126319
Licking120247
Clark111514
Lake107338
Wood99358
Clermont89211
Medina88735
Miami81137
Tuscarawas76214
Portage74361
Allen69942
Greene65611
Belmont59226
Richland58911
Mercer57313
Erie55627
Ashtabula55045
Geauga54844
Wayne51958
Ross4444
Huron3885
Ottawa36825
Sandusky36316
Darke36027
Athens3531
Hancock3533
Madison34910
Holmes3266
Lawrence2420
Auglaize2395
Union2331
Jefferson2192
Muskingum2151
Scioto2111
Putnam19917
Washington19822
Knox1917
Seneca1903
Coshocton1886
Shelby1774
Preble1762
Crawford1715
Morrow1652
Hardin15912
Clinton1586
Champaign1571
Highland1461
Fulton1441
Logan1402
Ashland1373
Wyandot1368
Defiance1334
Williams1303
Brown1232
Perry1163
Guernsey1147
Hocking1149
Henry1132
Carroll1105
Fayette1090
Monroe9118
Pike750
Jackson730
Van Wert701
Paulding640
Gallia621
Adams592
Meigs330
Vinton302
Morgan230
Harrison221
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 59°
Angola
54° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 55°
Decatur
55° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
55° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 55°
Sunny, Seasonable Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events