Donald Trump has attempted to walk back comments he made suggesting he believes Vladimir Putin over US intelligence agencies.
At a news conference in Vietnam, the US President distanced himself from remarks he made on Saturday, local time, in which he said he believed Mr Putin that there had been no Russian interference in the 2016 election.
He previously told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was done confronting the Russian President over the issue of election meddling, and that Mr Putin had denied the allegations.
“Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” Mr Trump said of Mr Putin. “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.”
He indicated to reporters that he trusts Mr Putin’s word over the expertise of high-ranking intelligence officials, calling them “political hacks”.
The comments drew significant criticism from American politicians like Senator John McCain, who called the president “naïve” and said that by cooperating with Russia, Mr Trump was risking national security.
Former U.S. intelligence director James Clapper told Reuters, “The fact the president of the United States would take Putin at his word over that of the intelligence community is quite simply unconscionable.”
Now President Trump has attempted to go back on the comments he made on Air Force One.
“As to whether I believe it or not, I’m with our agencies, especially as currently constituted,” he said at a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang on Sunday, local time.
“As currently led, by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”
Allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the election have continued to haunt the first year of the real estate tycoon’s presidency.
Despite Mr Trump’s repeated insistence that the accusations are baseless, special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting an investigation that has so far resulted in charges against Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates.