WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump’s stunning news conference Monday next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, members of Congress — including some within his own party — were quick to rebuke Trump’s performance on the world stage and Trump’s refusal to call Putin out for interfering in the US election.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, issued a blistering statement just minutes after the press conference wrapped.
Sasse rebuked Trump’s statement that he held “both countries responsible” for the deteriorated relationship between the United States and Russia.
“This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression,” Sasse said in the statement. “When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican and constant critic of Trump’s, called Trump’s performance “shameful.”
“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful,” tweeted Flake, who is not running for re-election.
The American people deserve the truth, & to disregard the legitimacy of our intelligence officials is a disservice to the men & women who serve this country. It’s time to wake up & face reality. #Putin is not our friend; he’s an enemy to our freedom.
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) July 16, 2018
Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger called Trump’s comments rebuking the US intelligence community assessment “a disservice,” though he did not mention Trump by name.
“The American people deserve the truth, & to disregard the legitimacy of our intelligence officials is a disservice to the men & women who serve this country. It’s time to wake up & face reality. #Putin is not our friend; he’s an enemy to our freedom,” Kinzinger tweeted.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who has had a closer working relationship with Trump on issues related to health care and tax reform, tweeted that the summit was a “missed opportunity.”
“Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections,” Graham tweeted. “This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves.”
Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.
This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves. (1/3)
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 16, 2018
Graham also warned Trump to leave a soccer ball, a gift from Putin, outside of the White House.
“If it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House,” Graham said.
The response came after Trump declined to endorse the US intelligence community’s finding that the Russians. interfered in the 2016 US election.
Instead, Trump said Putin was “extremely strong and powerful” in his denial.
“I have confidence in both parties,” Trump said of Russia and the US intelligence community.
“I have real confidence in my intelligence people, but I must tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial,” Trump said.
A senior GOP congressional aide told CNN it’s “shocking he would disrespect our intel community on foreign soil. Next to Putin.”
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, a key Trump ally, issued a statement backing up the intelligence community, but did not directly criticize the President.
“Russia interfered in the 2016 election,” Hatch said in a statement. “Our nation’s top intelligence agencies all agree on that point. From the President on down, we must do everything in our power to protect our democracy by securing future elections from foreign influence and interference, regardless of what Vladimir Putin or any other Russian operative says. I trust the good work of our intelligence and law enforcement personnel who have sworn to protect the United States of America from enemies foreign and domestic.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, tweeted “for the President to side with Putin over his own intelligence officials and blame the United States for Russia’s attack on our democracy is a complete disgrace.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said Trump embarrassed the US.
“Once again, @realDonaldTrump takes to the international stage to embarrass America, undermine our institutions, weaken our alliances, & embrace a dictator. Russia interfered in our elections & attacked our democracy. Putin must be held accountable — not rewarded. Disgraceful,” Warren tweeted.
Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, tweeted that someday the US would “turn the page on this dark chapter,” but that it would not be easy.
“This is a sad, shameful moment for our great nation. We will reclaim our values and reassert our global leadership. We’ll turn the page on this dark chapter. But it won’t happen on its own. We all must stand up—to side with U.S. law enforcement and to protect all Americans,” Kaine said.