US President Donald Trump briefly acknowledged in a tweet Thursday that Russia helped him get elected but quickly backtracked in comments to reporters.
Trump until now has said adamantly that he won the 2016 election fair and square, downplaying the impact of what US intelligence agencies say was a concerted Russian effort to meddle in his favour.
“Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax,” Trump tweeted a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller spoke publicly for the first time since the release of his report on collision during the election campaign and possible obstruction of justice afterwards.
“And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected,” Trump added. He again complained of being a victim of what he called presidential harassment.
Trump later appeared to recognize the lapse, telling reporters on the White House South Lawn, “No, Russia did not get me elected.”
Mueller in his remarks declined to clear Trump of obstruction of justice.
He said that under longstanding Justice Department policy he could not bring charges against a sitting president, effectively leaving it up to Congress to decide whether to begin impeachment proceedings.