Trump says he misspoke on Russia meddling

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WASHINGTON: 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 US 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 US 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 is calling NATO the “most significant military alliance in history.” In remarks to reporters Tuesday, McConnell said “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 US 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.