Trump Says He Holds Putin Personally Responsible for Meddling in U.S. Election

Trump says that 'as a leader of a country you would hold him responsible,' amid dispute in Washington over Trump's position on potential ongoing Russian interference

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US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference in Helsinki, July 16, 2018.
US President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin attend a joint press conference in Helsinki, July 16, 2018. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AP

U.S. President Donald Trump accused Wednesday his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of being responsible for Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.

"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 said in an interview to CBS News.

>> FBI Director Wray accuses Russia of disseminating fake news to 'spin up' Americans

Trump also said in the television interview that he accepted Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats' assessment that Russia continues to be a threat to U.S. elections.

"He's an expert, this is what he does, he's been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Dan Coats, and if he says that I would accept that. I will tell you though: it better not be, it better not be," Trump told CBS News.

In response to Trump's remarks to CBS, the White House declined to rule out accepting a Russian proposal for the questioning in the U.S. sought by the Kremlin for "illegal activities," including a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow on Wednesday.

"The president is going to meet with his team and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a news briefing. Sanders added that Trump "said it was an interesting idea ... He wants to work with his team and determine if there is any validity that would be helpful to the process." Trump said that he considered Russian President Vladimir Putin to be personally accountable for Moscow's meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Earlier the White House denied that Trump said that Russia was no longer targeting the U.S., saying his answer "no" was about taking further questions not about potential interference in U.S. elections.

Previously when asked by reporters before a Cabinet meeting whether Moscow was still targeting the U.S., Trump shook his head and said, "No."

"The president ... was saying 'No' to answering questions," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said at a news briefing later. "The president and his administration are working very hard to make sure that Russia is unable to meddle in our elections as they have done in the past."

On Monday, President Trump and Putin met in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki. After the closed-door meeting the two held a press conference during which Trump said he saw no reason to believe Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. Later Trump issued a clarification saying he preferred to kowtow to Putin and to effectively clear him of wrongdoing. Trump said he simply misspoke.

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