Kelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report

Source: The Hill | July 17, 2018 | Emily Birnbaum

White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly gave GOP lawmakers the green light to rebuke President Trump’s controversial remarks from his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Three sources told Vanity Fair on the condition of anonymity that Kelly was furious after Trump stood with Putin during their summit in Helsinki and sided with his denial that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump sparked major backlash among U.S. lawmakers and the intelligence community by siding with Putin’s denial instead of the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia did intervene in an effort to help Trump win.

Trump also blamed special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation for keeping the U.S. and Russia “separate.” 

Kelly told Trump that his remarks might worsen the situation with Mueller, according to Vanity Fair, which reported that the chief of staff then called Republicans on Capitol Hill and told them they could publicly speak out against Trump’s comments.

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Kelly has stood by the president through other bouts of intense public criticism, but sources told Vanity Fair this was different. They attributed Trump’s quick rollback partially to Kelly’s response. 

Trump on Tuesday tried to walk back his remarks, claiming he misspoke when he said he didn’t see “any reason that it would be” Russia that interfered.

“I would like to clarify, in a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,’ ” Trump said. “The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ ” 

Trump also said Tuesday that he believes Russia interfered in the presidential election, but again muddied the waters by repeating a claim he has made previously that other parties could have also interfered.

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