President Donald Trump stood at a podium beside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki Monday and was asked by a reporter whether he believed Putin, or the conclusions of US intelligence experts, on whether the Russians had interfered in the 2016 general election - which he won.
Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he has "full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies".
Former CIA Director John Brennan, for example, went so far as to use the word "treasonous" to describe Trump's refusal to support his intelligence services' conclusion that Russian Federation meddled in the 2016 presidential election. "There was no collusion at all".
Trump says Russian actions had no impact on the outcome of the vote and the administration would work aggressively to protect the November 2018 congressional elections.
Mr. Trump told reporters he reviewed a transcript of what he said, and made a decision to clarify his comments.
Trump declined to endorse the U.S. government's assessment that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 USA presidential election, instead publicly embracing Putin's "extremely strong and powerful" denial.
Saying that you accept the findings of the intelligence community but that "other people" might have been involved is like saying you accept that the world is round but you also worry about sailing off the edge of the Earth.
Signalling Republicans' own efforts at damage control in the wake of Trump's Helsinki performance, McConnell said there might be a vote on a bill sponsored by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, that would create punishments if Russian Federation interferes in the 2018 midterm elections.
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"I have the strongest respect for our intelligence agencies, headed by my people", Trump said at the previously unscheduled session with a small group of White House reporters as he prepared to meet with some House Republicans about additional tax cuts.
On Tuesday, he offered a laborious explanation for his remarks, which triggered a firestorm, both among opposition Democrats and members of his own Republican Party.
"Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests and it does not share our values", he said.
But the United States president has found precious little support for his failure to confront Putin, and faced calls even from allies to change tack.
House Speaker Paul Ryan piled on Tuesday, saying "there should be no doubt" about Russia's actions.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, called for immediate hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials to learn more about Trump's one-on-one meeting with the Russian Federation leader.
Schumer also called for the immediate passage of legislation to enhance election security, and reiterated calls for the Senate to hold immediate hearings to get testimony from Trump's national security team about what transpired during the private Trump-Putin meeting "so we can find out what the heck happened there".
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has given a series of interviews supporting Trump's stance towards Putin, and berating his critics as biased against the president. "We're doing everything in our power to prevent Russian interference in 2018". And spectacle there certainly was: NATO-bashing, humiliation of Theresa May, rudeness to the queen-even a balloon of a giant, diapered, angry baby Trump, holding a smart phone high above London.
Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the global stage with a man he has described as an important US competitor - but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader. The media only says I was rude to leaders, never mentions the money'.