— -- One day after White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that President Donald Trump "absolutely did not believe" Russian Vladimir Putin's denial of interference in last year's presidential election, following that country's claims that Trump accepted Putin's account, principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to provide an explanation for the dueling chronicles.
At Monday's White House press briefing, Sanders would only say that Trump "heard Putin's denial" without elaborating as to whether the president believed it or not.
“The president was multiple times asked Putin whether or not he was involved," said Sanders. "It took up a great deal of the conversation that they had on the front end of their meeting, and the president heard Putin's denial, and also realized that they had some very important topics they needed to cover -- Ukraine, North Korea, Syria -- and decided to move on from that point of the conversation and focus on those issues.
“He heard Putin's denial, and he knew that at the end of the day the important part was them being able to have that conversation, him to directly ask him," she continued. "He heard his answer, and he moved forward with places they thought they could work together."
On Sunday, Priebus pushed back on the accounts of Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said Friday Trump accepted the Russian president's claims, and of Putin himself, who stated at a press conference that Trump was "satisfied" with their discussion. The chief of staff told "Fox News Sunday" that the president doubted that the country was not involved.
Sanders' response reflects tweets by Trump on Sunday in which he said he "strongly pressed" Putin on the matter and Putin "vehemently denied it."
"I've already given my opinion....." Trump wrote, without revealing the opinion.
Trump has previously offered conflicting statements about his personal beliefs, saying as recently as last week that he isn't sure who was behind the meddling.
"I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries," said Trump in Poland, prior to meeting Putin. "I won’t be specific."