Since President Trump and Russian President Putin met in Helsinki on Monday, the U.S. president has been under fire for comments that seemed to undermine the United States intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. More than 24 hours after Trump's controversial Helsinki comments, he walked those comments back, placing the fault on a word-choice slip up. But not everyone believes his statement claiming he misspoke — including MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who called Trump’s statement a "shameless lie."
In a Tuesday press conference, the president said it was only after getting a transcript of his remarks that he realized he’d flubbed the wording of his Helsinki statement, CNN reported.
"I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript," Trump said.
Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, "What is going on? What's the big deal?" So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is need for some clarification. It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn't. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't."
And on Tuesday afternoon, Wallace said on Deadline: White House that she just wasn’t buying the president’s claims, particularly the implication that he needed a transcript to know he'd worded his remarks incorrectly.
You know how you know that’s a lie? You know how long it takes when you’re president to get a clip of your press conference? About 60 seconds. We just learned though that that stunning attempt at cleanup, most of it read from prepared remarks, followed an unscheduled meeting this morning of national security advisers concerning Russia and all the fallout from Helsinki.
She also said she had some first-hand knowledge to back up her statements that the president wouldn’t have needed a transcript to know he made a mistake. Wallace worked in George W. Bush’s White House. “You tell them the minute they walk off the set,” she said of presidents misspeaking.
“It’s a flagrant lie and a shameless lie to say that he had to pull a transcript to find out what he said,” Wallace said. “The headlines were instant. The reaction was instant. He couldn’t have even been in the motorcade before his entire White House staff would have gone to him and said, ‘Hey, that landed with a thud, you siding with Vladimir Putin over Dan Coats and the intelligence community.’”
During the Helsinki press conference, Trump said Putin strongly denied Russian meddling in the 2016 election, though his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, had told him otherwise,” USA Today reported. He followed this up with the sentence he later corrected.
"I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be," Trump said in Helsinki Monday.
Even if you replace the word "would" with "wouldn't," one of Wallace’s guests on Tuesday, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire, pointed out that the context of the remark was still damning enough to draw criticism on its own.
Shortly after the sentence he corrected, Trump reaffirmed Putin's denial of meddling, as a transcript shows. "So I have great confidence in my intelligence people," Trump said, "but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."
All this is to say that — even after correcting his comments on Tuesday — the president is still relieving plenty of criticism from people like Wallace after his Helsinki remarks.