WH Clarifies: Trump Wasn’t Saying Russia Is Not Still Targeting the US

Melanie Arter | July 18, 2018 | 10:45pm EDT
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President Donald Trump holds a cabinet meeting (Screenshot)

(CNSNews.com) - The White House on Tuesday clarified remarks that President Donald Trump made following a meeting with cabinet members, that were reported to be the president saying he didn’t believe that Russia was still targeting the United States.

At issue was the president’s response to a shouted question at the end of the cabinet meeting as the White House officials were asking reporters to leave the room. 


ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega, who asked, “Is Russia still targeting the U.S.?”

“Thank you very much. No,” the president said.

“No, you don't believe that to be the case?” Vega asked.

“No,” the president said.

During the White House press briefing later that day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders clarified that the president “was saying no to answering questions.”

“Earlier, Cecilia asked the president, is Russia still targeting the U.S. He said no. Is that what the president actually believes? Did he understand the question, and is his position that no, Russia is not doing anything to interfere or meddle in the 2018 election?” CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett asked.

“I had a chance to speak with the president after his comments, and the president said, ‘Thank you very much’ and was saying no to answering questions. 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 and as we have stated,” Sanders said.

“So he does believe it’s going on?” Garrett asked.

“Since there’s currently not an election today, not specifically, but we certainly believe that we are taking steps to make sure they can’t do it again. Unlike previous administrations, this president is actually taking bold action and reform to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but he does believe that they would target certainly U.S. elections again,” Sanders said.

“Is there any distance between the President and the DNI Coats, who said that the red lights are blinking on this topic? Do they completely agree?” Garrett asked.

“No, that’s why I said we’re taking steps to ensure that these things don’t happen again. We wouldn’t actually spend as much time and effort as we are if we didn’t believe that they were still looking at us,” Sanders replied. “From the beginning of his administration, President Trump has actually taken action to defend our election system from meddling and interference.”

She read off a list of the president’s efforts to defend the U.S. election system from meddling and interference:


“In May of 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to strengthen and review the cybersecurity of our nation and its critical infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security has taken the lead in working with all 50 states, local governments, and private companies to improve election security.


DHS has increased coordination among all election partners. Thirty-four states, fifty-two county and local governments, and five election companies received cybersecurity scans regularly from DHS. DHS plans to provide onsite risk and vulnerability assessments to all states that request it. So far, 18 states have requested this assessment.


A new pilot program was launched to increase rapid response capabilities on Election Day, and in 2017, onsite cybersecurity support was provided.


In March of 2018, Congress provided the Election Assistance Commission with $380 million in funding for election assistance grants to states. These are steps that we've taken to prevent it from happening. These are steps that we've taken because we see that there's a threat there.”


When asked to clarify whether the White House believes that the threat from Russia is still ongoing, Sanders said, “Certainly. Like I just said, we believe that the threat still exists, which is why we are taking steps to prevent it. Again, you wouldn't go through that lengthy process if you weren't.”


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