Contrary to suggestions that he buckled under pressure or was dragged kicking and screaming into revising his remarks in Helsinki – in which he suggested he believed Russian President Putin over his own intelligence agencies about Russian meddling – President Trump appears to have quickly recognized his mistake and directed aides to do help him address it.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
Flying home Monday after the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump and his senior aides recognized that he had made a mistake that risked lasting damage and needed to be fixed quickly, people familiar with the matter said.
Playing on a loop on television was footage of the president standing next to Mr. Putin, casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and aligning himself with Moscow’s denial of any meddling.
Mr. Trump, aboard Air Force One, spoke to his staff about how best to correct what they knew was a miscue, and the discussions continued with staff meetings Tuesday morning in Washington.
On the flight home from Helsinki, with Mr. Trump telling aides he wanted to come out with a new statement, John Bolton, his national security adviser, wrote up a list of points that needed to be made quickly and passed them to White House aides, a person familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Bolton noted that president should make clear that he had always backed the U.S. intelligence community, that Russian or any foreign meddling wouldn’t be tolerated, that interference in U.S. elections wouldn’t happen in the midterm elections and that there hadn’t been any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.
Bill Shine, the newly minted deputy chief of staff for communications and a former Fox News executive, voiced concern that the White House needed to provide a new TV image so that networks would stop broadcasting images of Mr. Trump’s news conference in Helsinki, a person familiar with the matter said.
Mr. Trump would heed that advice, making a televised statement from the Cabinet Room during a meeting with lawmakers that was originally supposed to be closed to the press.
The media were never going to let this go because in this case, they had a legitimate reason to be critical of the president, and so they had an excuse to gleefully pile on for months. They still will, but at least Trump has corrected the record and reassured people in the intelligence agencies, some of whom risk their lives on a daily basis, that he doesn’t believe Vladimir Putin over them.