After coming under fire for seemingly questioning the assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump on Sunday said he trusts the current leadership of the United States’ intelligence agencies.
During a press conference here, Trump sought to clarify comments he made aboard Air Force One on Saturday, in which he said of Putin denying influencing the election, “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
On Sunday, Trump said those comments were not meant to imply he personally believes that Russia didn’t seek to manipulate the election. Instead, Trump said he was simply stating that he believes Putin is being sincere when he says he wasn’t involved.
“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 he and Russia did not meddle in the election,” Trump said during a press conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.
He continued, “As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership. I believe in our intelligence agencies. I’ve worked with them very strongly.”
Trump’s Saturday comments sparked outrage in the United States. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and others strongly criticized the president for seeming to side with Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies. Current and former U.S. officials have said they believe with high confidence that Russia sought to manipulate the election in Trump’s favor.