In a move that has potential to become a “depends on what the definition of ‘is’
is” moment for the current administration, Donald Trump said Tuesday that when he asserted at a Monday press conference with Vladimir Putin that he saw no reason why Russia would have stolen and leaked Democrats’ emails during the 2016 election cycle, what he had actually meant to say was the opposite of that.
The claim was made during a public meeting with House Republicans; here it is verbatim:
I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcripts—I have to say, I came back and I said, “what is going on, what is the big deal?” So I got a transcript, I reviewed it, I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized there is a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious, but I would like to clarify just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. The sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,” or “why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So just to repeat it, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. And the sentence should have been, and I thought I would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video [ed.: ?], the sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.” So sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.
This explanation, however, is dubious given that when Trump, on Monday, said “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia],” he did so in the midst of an answer that raised various debunked theories as to why Russia might have been falsely accused, characterized Putin’s denial of involvement as “extremely strong and powerful,” and praised the Russian leader for having made an absurd O.J.-finding-the-real-killer-esque offer to help investigate the matter alongside special counsel Robert Mueller. Here’s that Monday answer:
So let me just say we have two thoughts. We have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server, and what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question, my people came to me, [director of national intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said, they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server, but I have—I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC. Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? 33,000 e-mails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did, is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.
Also noteworthy from Tuesday’s event: After reading the phrase “I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place” from prepared remarks, Trump added that “It could be other people, also. There are lots of people out there.” Good stuff.