Trump backtracks, says he misspoke on Russian election tampering

President Donald Trump says he meant the opposite when he said in Helsinki that he doesn’t see why Russia would have interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Back at the White House on Tuesday, the president told reporters that he said he meant he doesn’t see why Russia “wouldn’t” be responsible.

He also said he accepts the American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the election, but he denied that his campaign had colluded in the effort.

Trump spoke a day after returning to the U.S. to nearly universal condemnation of his performance at Russian President Vladmir Putin’s side in Helsinki. Putin said he wanted Trump to win the race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In Helsinki, Trump delivered no condemnation of Russia’s interference and refused to say he believes American intelligence agencies over Russia’s denials of meddling.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell  said Tuesday “the European countries are our friends and the Russians are not.”

McConnell says there is “indisputable evidence” Russia tried to affect the 2016 presidential election. He says the Senate understands the “Russia threat” and that is the “widespread view here in the United States Senate among members of both parties.”

McConnell’s words came just minutes before President Donald Trump was expected to speak about the Helsinki summit on Monday. They seemed aimed at sending a clear message both to Trump and the Europeans.

At the summit, Trump appeared to favor Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial of Russian meddling over the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia did try to interfere.

Trump also at varying times in his European trip disparaged the NATO alliance, which was formed to counter the former Soviet Union.

Earlier Tuesday, House Republicans have used a party-line vote to block a Democratic measure aimed at condemning President Donald Trump’s stunning comments in Helsinki, Finland, about Russia. It was the first vote testing how Congress will react to Trump’s remarks.

On Monday, Trump stood beside Russian President Vladimir Putin and challenged American intelligence agencies’ findings that Moscow had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections. He seemed to accept Putin’s insistence that his government had done nothing.

By 230-183, the House rejected a Democratic measure endorsing Speaker Paul Ryan’s remarks criticizing Russia. The Wisconsin Republican said “there is no question” Russia interfered in the elections and said there is “no moral equivalence” between the two countries.

The two-page Democratic proposal summarized Ryan’s points and said the House “expresses its agreement” with them.