President Donald Trump on Thursday walked back a tweet in which he appeared to say Russia helped him win the White House, as he called a reported decision by military officials to obscure the USS John S. McCain during his Japan visit “well meaning.”
‘I GOT ME ELECTED’
After appearing to acknowledge that Russia helped him in a morning tweet, Trump told reporters, “No, Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia, if anything, helped the other side.”
Trump’s comments, made on the White House lawn before departing for Colorado to address the 2019 U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, came after he tweeted, “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”
It was one of several tweets that came a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller spoke in public for the first time about his findings, and said he could not clear Trump of obstruction charges. “If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said. Trump repeated his assertion that Mueller’s inquiry was a “hoax.”
On Wednesday, Mueller said there were “multiple, systematic efforts” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, though he did not state that those efforts swayed the result. In his indictments, the special counsel said Russia was acting to benefit Trump over Hillary Clinton.
After The Wall Street Journal reported the White House wanted the U.S. Navy to move “out of sight” the USS John S. McCain ahead of Trump’s visit to Japan, Trump said, “I didn’t know anything about it. I would never have done that.”
Still, Trump added: “Now, somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him. And they were well-meaning, I will say.”
Trump has repeatedly criticized McCain even after the Arizona senator’s death in August 2018 — and did so again on Thursday over his vote that helped to sink Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. “They thought they were doing me a favor, because they know I’m not a fan of John McCain,” Trump said.
Trump also told reporters he’d make what he called a “major statement” Thursday or Friday about the border. He didn’t get into details but said it would focus on people coming into the U.S. illegally. Border security and immigration policy are two of Trump’s cornerstone issues.
At the Air Force ceremony, Trump told graduates “to dominate the future, America must rule the skies” and “you’re going to win so much, you’re going to get tired of winning. But not really.”
Asked about trade discussions with China, Trump said Beijing would “love to make a deal with us,” as tariffs on Chinese products were spurring manufacturers to leave for other countries.
See: Why this country could emerge as a surprise winner from U.S.-China trade battle.
Talks between the U.S. and China have stalled as Washington has accused Beijing of reneging on commitments made in earlier negotiations. Still, Trump said “I think we’re doing very well with China.”
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