Fox News’ Tucker Carlson began his interview, taped on Monday in Helsinki with President Donald Trump immediately after his appearance with Vladimir Putin, with a question about the news conference and the firestorm it unleashed after Trump defended Putin.
“The reaction to your press conference in Washington was swift and intense, former CIA director John Brennan described as treasonous and a potentially impeachable defense,” Carlson began. “Why the push toward conflict with Russia in Washington on both sides?”
Right here, Trump had a chance to restate the correction he issued Tuesday at the White House about how he purportedly meant to say that he didn’t see why Russia wouldn’t have interfered in the 2016 election — a change from what he actually said, which was, “President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this — I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump didn’t take the opportunity. Instead, he attacked former CIA Director John Brennan for criticizing Trump’s behavior in Helsinki.
I think John Brennan is a very bad guy, a lot of things happened under his watch, I think he’s a very bad person. I think if you watch Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, when you look at all the things that have happened, Comey, if you take a look at that and McCabe who’s got problems I assume — you look at the deception, the lies and what’s gone on in the last fairly long period of time. Before I won. Long before I won, during the campaign. I guess probably during the Republican when I was fighting against 17 other Republicans — so this has been going on for a long time. These are people that in my opinion are truly bad people. They are being exposed for what they are and it’s a shame that it has to happen but it’s really hurt our country.
Perhaps the most alarming portion of the Trump-Putin press conference was this answer to a question of who Trump believed, Putin or his intelligence experts, and if he would denounce Putin in public for trying to meddle.
“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question,” Trump said on Monday. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others they 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, but I really do want to see the server.”
On Tuesday during a press availability at the White House, Trump attempted to walk this back.
“I reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realize there is a need for some clarification,” Trump said. “In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.'”
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump also said, before completely undercutting what he had just said.
“It could be other people also,” Trump said. “There’s a lot of people out there.”
But if Trump really misspoke, you’d expect him to correct the record during interviews he did immediately after the news conference. But he didn’t do so with Carlson. An interview with Sean Hannity, also taped after the Helsinki press conference, also contained no such correction — Trump actually accused President Obama of rigging the Russia investigation.
Before running his interview with Trump, Carlson framed Trump’s correction as a conflict between Trump and the entire government.
“As the rage-storm swirled, the president bowed to the inevitable, genuflecting before U.S. Intelligence agencies whose judgment must never be questioned and recited the oath of loyalty to the spy bureaucrats in charge of the country,” Carlson said, referring to the correction as a “hostage tape.”