Trump says he holds Putin responsible for election meddling, defends Helsinki performance

President Trump said in an interview airing Wednesday that he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin personally responsible for the Kremlin's attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, as the president and White House tried deflecting backlash over the world leaders' summit for a third day.

Trump told CBS News that he holds Putin responsible "because he's in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country.

"So, certainly as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him responsible, yes."

The president declined to say whether he believed Putin lied to him Monday when he denied Russian involvement in cyberattacks on Democratic party organizations.

The interview came amid an ongoing outcry over Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, and the president's contradictory statements about whether he agrees with the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered with the election.

Trump has fought back against his critics in a series of interviews. "I’m not pro-Russia, pro-anybody," Trump told Fox News' Tucker Carlson in an interview that aired Tuesday. "I just want to have this country be safe. ... You know, Russia and the United States control 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world and getting along with Russia – and not only for that reason – it's a good thing, not a bad thing."


Speaking to Sean Hannity in an interview that aired Monday, Trump cast blame elsewhere, saying Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between Washington and Moscow has "driven a wedge between us and Russia."

On Wednesday, Trump appeared to answer "no" when asked whether Russia was still targeting the United States. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the president actually was saying "no" to the prospect of answering more questions, not responding to the specific question.


When asked if he would accept Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats' assessment that Russia is engaged in "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine [American] democracy," Trump told CBS News' Jeff Glor: "Well, I'd accept it ... I'll tell you, though, it better not be [happening]."

Trump also claimed that he confronted Putin about the meddling in Helsinki: "I let him know we can't have this, we're not going to have it, and that's the way it's going to be."

In the CBS interview, the president again defended his performance during his much-criticized news conference with Putin, saying: "I think I did great at the news conference. I think it was a strong news conference. You have people that said, 'You should have gone up to him, you should have walked up and started screaming in his face.' We're living in the real world, OK?"

Trump added, "I think the press largely makes up a lot of the fuss about the fuss about a lot of things ... They didn't cover my meeting ... and in that meeting, we discussed many, many things that were very, very positive for both countries."

Fox News' Mike Arroyo contributed to this report.