A day after publicly siding with Vladimir Putin over U.S. Intelligence on the question of whether Moscow had interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, President Donald Trump defended his efforts to improve relations with Russia, even as he back tracked slightly to say that â€śI acceptâ€ť the conclusions of intelligence officials on Russian meddling. In remarks to reporters at the White House, the President said he had simply misspoke, dropping the word â€śnotâ€ť in a sentence about his view on Russian responsibility for election interference in 2016. â€śI need to make a clarification,â€ť Mr. Trump said, reading from a prepared script before television cameras, as he met with a group GOP lawmakers. â€śI accept our Intelligence Communityâ€™s conclusion,â€ť the President said â€“ but he swiftly raised the possibility that actors other than Russia might have been involved, something not supported by the CIA and Congress. â€śCould be other people also â€“ thereâ€™s a lot of people out there,â€ť the President said. President Trump: ‘In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’â€¦the sentence should have been, ‘I don’t any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double-negative.’ pic.twitter.com/wFob1xfzp2 â€” CSPAN (@cspan) July 17, 2018 President Trumpâ€™s explanation was that he meant to say, â€śI donâ€™t know any reason why it would not be Russia,â€ť but that he only said, â€śI donâ€™t know any reason why it would be Russia.â€ť The comments came as the President faced a bipartisan firestorm of criticism from Capitol Hill, as lawmakers said the President was wrong to have stood on the same stage with Putin, and downplayed the Russian threat. Mr. Trump defended his effort to deal with Putin, arguing â€śthat diplomacy and engagement is better than hostility and conflict,â€ť as he accused the press of biased reporting on his European trip. â€śThe press covered it quite inaccurately,â€ť Mr. Trump added, â€śThey said I insulted everybody,â€ť as the President made clear he was thrilled with efforts to deal with Putin, casting that as more important than his previous meetings with European leaders at the NATO summit. While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way â€“ the Fake News is going Crazy! â€” Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2018 The President remarks came as Democrats in Congress all but accused President Trump of being a Russian Intelligence asset. â€śIs the President an agent of a foreign power?â€ť wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) on Twitter. â€śHe wrapped his arms around Vladimir Putin,â€ť said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) on the House floor. â€śWhen are the Republicans in Congress going to provide a check on President Trump?â€ť asked Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA). . @realDonaldTrump Mr. President, siding with the president of Russia over our own U.S. intelligence community is embarrassing and inexcusable. â€” Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) July 17, 2018 â€śItâ€™s embarrassing and alarming that the U.S. President would believe the Russian President instead of the U.S. Intelligence Community,â€ť said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). Meanwhile, many GOP lawmakers made it clear that while they supported the Presidentâ€™s summit meeting with Vladimir Putin, there was an acknowledgement that Mr. Trumpâ€™s statements which sided with Putinâ€™s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 elections were not helpful. â€śI think anybody that watched that press conference â€“ including the President himself â€“ would say that it was not his finest hour,â€ť said Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), as some conservative voices expressed frustration with Mr. Trump. â€śI donâ€™t agree with President Trumpâ€™s comments,â€ť said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). â€śThe evidence from our national security agencies is clear; Russia deliberately tried to undermine our republic. This is unacceptable.â€ť â€śWe have seen time and again that Russia will stop at nothing to interfere with and undermine our system of government,â€ť said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). When a famously conservative Western PA newspaper runs a headline like this, you know youâ€™ve screwed up, or you should know. pic.twitter.com/mntLKoFo1R â€” Brit Hume (@brithume) July 17, 2018 â€śLetâ€™s be very clear, so that everybody knows, Russia did interfere with our elections,â€ť said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who bluntly denounced the Putin regime, clearly labeling him as an enemy of the West. â€śRussia is trying to undermine democracy itself,â€ť the Speaker added, seemingly inviting action by Congress on new sanctions against Moscow. â€śVladimir Putin does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin does not share our values,â€ť the Speaker said. . @SpeakerRyan on #Russia: ‘They did interfere in our elections. It’s really clear. There should be no doubt about that.’ Also: ‘Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests and it does not share our values.’ Full video here: https://t.co/MQEeehjImb pic.twitter.com/S58mK0j74S â€” CSPAN (@cspan) July 17, 2018 Senate Republican leaders meanwhile went out of their way to proclaim their public support for European allies in NATO, trying to send a much different message than what was transmitted in person by President Trump during his visit last week. â€śWe believe the European Union countries are our friends, and the Russians are not,â€ť said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, as he heaped praise on NATO, and the need to preserve the North Atlantic alliance. On the issue of election interference, the message was also different from what the President had said in Helsinki. â€śClearly, the Russians tried to interfere in our elections,â€ť said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO).