WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) – President Trump again expressed confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies and their assessment of Russian interference Wednesday, but declined to say whether he believes Vladimir Putin was lying when he denied Russia was behind the meddling effort. Mr. Trump made the comments in an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor at the White House.
Mr. Trump said he believes it’s “true”and said he directly warned Putin against interfering in U.S. elections during their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday. Asked what he said to Putin, Mr. Trump responded, “Very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling, we can’t have any of that … I let him know that we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Mr. Trump also expressed confidence in Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, whose dire warnings about U.S. hacking vulnerabilities he hadin a previous interview.
“Well, I accept. I mean, he’s an expert,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday. “This is what he does. He’s been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Dan Coats, and if he says that, I would accept that. I will tell you though, it better not be. It better not be.”
There was more Russia summit backlash Wednesday at the White House over a response President Donald Trump gave to a reporter after a Cabinet meeting.
The reporter asked if Russia was still targeting the United States with cyberattacks, in light of comments by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats that it was.
Trump answered, “no,” seeming to contradict his national intelligence director. However, the White House said the president was merely declining to answer questions.
Reporter: “Is Russia still targeting the U.S.? Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?”
POTUS: “Thank you very much, thank you very much, no.”
Trump said “no,” but the White House said he was only saying “no” to more questions from reporters.
“I had a chance to speak with the president after his comments, and the president said, ‘thank you very much’ and was saying ‘no’ to answering questions,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. “The president and his administration are working very hard to make sure that Russia is unable to meddle in our elections.”
Just last week Coats said the U.S. is still subject to a large-scale cyberattack.
“These actions are persistent, they are pervasive and they are meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis,” he said on July 13.
But in the interview with CBS Evening News’ Glor, the president seemed unconvinced that, as Coats put it, the warning lights are blinking red.
“Well I don’t know if I agree with that. I’d have to look, but I have a lot of respect for Dan and that’s where he is and that’s what he does. Again, we’re working on it very hard, we’re upgrading things at a very rapid pace,” Trump said.
This is the second time this week there has been confusion over what the president meant to say regarding Russia. On Tuesday, he said he misspoke while saying there was no reason for the country to meddle in U.S. elections.
“The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,” he said.
At his Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump once again insisted he’s been tougher on Russia than any other president.
“I think President Putin knows that better than anybody, certainly a lot better than the media. He understands it and he’s not happy about it, and he shouldn’t be happy about it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats want to hold a hearing with the U.S. interpreter who was in the room during their private meeting at the summit.
“President Trump wanted no one else in the room. So to have the translator come testify and tell what happened there is an imperative,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
“I think that would be a terrible precedent to be pulling translators for meetings that presidents had,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to testify next week on what he may have learned about the meeting after it was over.
When asked about sitting for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president said his lawyers are working on that and he always wanted to do an interview.