Trump asserts Russia not targeting US, contradicting intel


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump today denied Russia is still targeting the United States, a claim sharply at odds with recent warnings from his top intelligence chief about ongoing threats to election security.

Trump was asked at the end of a Cabinet meeting if Russia was still targeting the U.S. and answered "no" without elaborating. His response followed words of alarm last week from National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, who said warning lights about overall cyberthreats to the U.S. were "blinking red" – much as "blinking red" signals before the 9/11 terror attacks.

In the aftermath of his Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump asserted that no other American president has been as "tough" on Russia as he has been. He cited U.S. sanctions on Russia and the expulsion of alleged Russian spies from the U.S., telling reporters that Putin "understands it, and he's not happy about it."

Coats said last week Russia has been the most aggressive cyberthreat but other efforts are coming from China, Iran and North Korea as well as criminal networks and individual hackers.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on Twitter that Trump's comments were "simply false. Directly contradicted by DNI Coats, who just sounded the alarm about Russia's 'ongoing,' pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."

Trump's comments came a day after he walked back his public questioning of U.S. intelligence findings of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Those previous comments, delivered alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit press conference Monday, had prompted blistering, bipartisan criticism at home.

Trump took to Twitter early today to defend the meeting, promising "big results" from better relations with Russia and hitting back at "haters."

"So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki," Trump tweeted.

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