Facing widespread backlash, President Donald Trump backpedals from remarks made during Helsinki summit in which he appeared to side with Russian president's denials of interfering in the 2016 US election.

Trump says Russian actions had no impact on the outcome of the vote and the administration would work aggressively to protect the November 2018 congressional elections.
Trump says Russian actions had no impact on the outcome of the vote and the administration would work aggressively to protect the November 2018 congressional elections. (Reuters)

US President Donald Trump, grappling with a torrent of criticism over his performance at a Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Tuesday he misspoke at their joint news conference and meant to say he saw no reason why it was not Russia that interfered in the 2016 US election.

TRT World's Leone Lakhani reports from Washington.

Trump told reporters at the White House that he had faith in his country's intelligence agencies and accepted their conclusion that Russia meddled in the election.

"The full faith and support for America's intelligence agencies – I have a full faith in our intelligence agencies," Trump said in remarks preceding a meeting with House of Representatives Republicans about possible future tax cuts.

He said Russian actions had no impact on the outcome of the vote and the administration would work aggressively to protect the November 2018 congressional elections.

Trump backed Russia against FBI

Standing alongside Putin at the news conference in Helsinki on Monday, Trump was asked if he believed US intelligence agencies' conclusions that Russia interfered in the election in an effort to help him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump said he was not convinced it was Moscow.

"I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said. "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."

In Helsinki, Putin said he had indeed wanted Trump to win the election – a revelation that might have made more headlines if not for Trump's performance – but had taken no action to make it happen.

“Yes, I wanted him to win because he spoke of normalisation of Russian-US ties,” Putin said. 

"Isn't it natural to feel sympathy to a person who wanted to develop relations with our country? It's normal."

TRT World spoke with former Republican Congressman Ron Paul, who said Trump-Putin summit was a success.

The reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics

"Shameful," "disgraceful," "weak," were a few of the comments. Makes the US "look like a pushover," said GOP Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

As criticism mounted, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Trump would speak about the Helsinki meeting.

Political analyst Bassima Alghussein told TRT World that Russia continues to interfere in a democratic process and the US president failed to defend US interests in the 'disastrous' Helsinki summit.

Trump on nukes

On Tuesday, Trump said he discussed North Korea's nuclear weapons programme with Putin in their meeting on Monday, and that the two leaders also discussed reducing nuclear weapons worldwide.

Trump said there was no need to rush regarding North Korea, and that there was no time limit to act.

US Senate leader warns of Russia sanctions

Earlier on Tuesday, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the chamber could consider new sanctions against Russia and warned Russia not to meddle in the US midterm elections in November.

Speaking to reporters a day after Trump met with Putin and then in a joint news conference declined to embrace US intelligence organisations' finding that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, McConnell said, "It really better not happen again in 2018."