When President Donald Trump said “no” to a reporter who asked if he thinks Russia still is targeting U.S. elections, he meant that he would not take any questions, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at today’s press briefing.
Except Trump then answered the question, insisting no president has been as tough on Russia.
The exchange happened when reporters were being ushered from a White House Cabinet meeting photo op, which typically triggered shouting-out of questions. The loudest was a reporter asking, “Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?”
“Thank you very much. No,” Trump responded as aides tried to clear the room of media.
“No, you don’t believe that to be the case?” the reporter asked over the din.
“No,” Trump responded, then restated his claim about how tough he was on Russia.
Press asked Sanders about what appears to be another case of Trump throwing intel community under the bus at the press briefing a couple hours later.
“I had a chance to speak with the president after those comments, and the president was saying ‘Thank you very much’ and saying ‘no’ to answering questions,” Sanders said at the first White House press briefing in two weeks. “The president and his administration are working very hard to ensure that Russia is unable to meddle in our elections, as they have done in the past,” she added, insisting she is “interpreting” Trump, not “reversing” him.
Reversing Trump is what happened the previous day, when the White House held an extraordinary Helsinki Presser Walk-Back. At that press event, Trump announced that he meant to say he saw no reason to believe Russia WOULDN’T interfere in the 2016 election while standing with Russian ruler Vladimir Putin. What Trump had said at Monday’s Helsinki presser was that he saw no reason to believe Russia WOULD intervene in the election, triggering an uproar even among Republicans who weren’t happy with the Presidential Putin Lapdog look.
White House correspondents weren’t the only ones who thought Trump had undermined his intel community yet again this morning with his “no response” to the reporter’s question about Russian election meddling. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, for instance, tweeted:
A BIG discrepancy between President Trump’s statement and DNI Coates’ warning.
It’s imperative we get to the bottom of what is going on so we can be prepared to protect ourselves in advance of the 2018 elections.
My personal view: the Russians are at again.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2018