WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin personally responsible for Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
“Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes,” Trump told CBS News in an interview.
Amid intense controversy following his summit in Helsinki with the Russian leader where he was accused of failing to press him over Moscow’s attempts to interfere in the presidential race and undermining US intelligence, Mr Trump embarked on the latest in a series of attempts at damage limitation.
Having said on Tuesday he had “misspoke” in Helsinki when he said he saw no reason Russia would have interfered in the election, on Wednesday in an interview the president said he did indeed agree with the conclusion of four US intelligence agencies that Moscow sought to influence the outcome of White House battle. White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders also said Mr Trump had been misunderstood when he appeared to say he thought Russia no longer represented a cyber threat.
Since he entered the White House in January, Mr Trump has on a handful of occasions, seemingly grudgingly acknowledged the belief of his top intelligence officials that Russia interfered in 2016. Asked about the issue at a press conference in Poland in July 2017, he said: “Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people and other countries. It could have been [that] a lot of people interfered … Nobody really knows for sure.”
As such, his remarks in an interview with CBS represented his toughest comments yet about Russia and Mr Putin. In the interview, he claimed he had told Mr Putin in “very strong” terms the US would not tolerate any repeat of such efforts.
“I let him know we can’t have this. We’re not going to have it and that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said.
Asked about whether he held Mr Putin personally responsible, he said: “I would because he’s in charge of the country just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country.”