After a week of statements, clarifications, and the use of a double negative in the aftermath of President Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Republican National Committee thinks that Trump supports the intelligence community and was tough on Russia by standing with Ukraine and NATO.
The Committee’s talking points, reviewed by The Daily Beast, assert that the president “accepts the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia meddled in the 2016 election,” despite Trump expressing the opposite sentiment during his press conference with Putin on Monday.
“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia. 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 while standing beside the Russian president in Helsinki. “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Trump later clarified that quote in a statement, saying he meant to say he didn’t “‘see any reason why it WOULDN’T be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”
The RNC also claims that Trump has been tough on Russia, specifically regarding Ukraine. It claims that the administration “has approved the sale of lethal aid to Ukraine” and sanctioned people in response to Russian aggression in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.
Putin, however, proposed having a referendum for separatist regions in Ukraine, and Trump reportedly told him to keep it quiet so he “could consider it.” The White House then had to come out and say that Trump was "not considering supporting" Putin’s proposal.
The RNC also “credited” the president with “leading the charge in encouraging NATO member countries to increase their defense spending in order to strengthen the alliance—which serves as a strong counter to Russian aggression.” Trump has been railing against NATO allies for months for not paying their “fair share,” and complained this week about having to defend other NATO countries on Fox News.
“It was very unfair, they weren’t paying. Not only are we paying for most of it but they weren’t even paying and we’re protecting them,” Trump told Tucker Carlson in an interview, lamenting the idea of sending Carlson’s son to a place like Montenegro as part of the NATO defense treaty.
The Committee also took the chance to slam former President Barack Obama for being “asleep at the wheel” and claimed that Trump has been “tougher on Russia,” echoing Trump’s comments this week which called President Obama’s comment—promising a former Russian foreign minister that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with contentious issues after the 2012 presidential election—“not acceptable.”
“President Obama supposedly made a strong statement. Nobody heard it. What they did hear is a statement he made to Putin’s very close friend,” Trump said in an interview with CBS News’ Jeff Glor. “And that statement was not acceptable.”
Despite stumbles with NATO, the Ukraine issue, and rubbing the intelligence community and many politicians the wrong way, the RNC insists that a week spent putting out fires was really just the president breaking the mold.
“President Trump is challenging the status quo and reopening those channels of communication, working to deescalate tensions to ensure the safety and security of not only the United States, but of our allies as well,” the committee wrote.