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White House defends Trump’s toughness on Russia after Helsinki summit

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hits back at reporters wondering why US President Donald Trump undermined his intelligence community’s assessment on alleged Russia meddling and instead sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.

Sanders had to deny the Helsinki bow on Wednesday as her boss had done upon returning to the US as pressure mounted on him over denial of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“Certainly we’ve called them out. We’ve been tough. We’ve approached this in a totally different fashion than has been previously done, because what’s been done in the past hasn’t worked,” Sanders said. “But to act like he hasn’t been tough on Russia, that he hasn’t called them out, is simply not true.”

Subsequently it was pointed out that the White House has reversed course twice in the last three days on statements by the president.

“Why should this president have any credibility to Americans in what he says if in fact 24 hours later or in this case three hours later, the White House comes out and says ‘Just kidding,'” asked NBC’s Hallie Jackson.

Sanders responded by asserting that the question asked alongside Putin was unfair.

“I was interpreting what the president’s intention was, and stating the administration’s policy. That’s not exactly what you just explained,” she said. “We never said ‘just kidding,’ and I think that you can take the fact that the president has credibility because he saw that he had misspoken and he wanted to clarify that yesterday, which he did.”

Addressing reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Trump claimed that he had misspoken during a joint press conference with Putin in the Finnish capital.

“He just said it’s not Russia,” the US president had said in Helsinki, repeating Putin’s denials of interference in the vote. “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Conceding an extraordinary syntactical slip, Trump said during a brief appearance at the White House that the comments needed “some clarification” after his close allies called on him to change course.

“I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,’” Trump told reporters, reading from a prepared statement. “The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia,’ sort of a double negative.”

Ever since Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, the US intelligence community has overwhelmingly maintained that Moscow sought to meddle in the 2016 election.

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