WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress, including some Republicans, are criticizing President Donald Trump’s performance at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “bizarre,” ”shameful” and a “missed opportunity” to stand up to Russia.
And a former CIA director says his comments were treasonous.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called it “bizarre” and “flat-out wrong” for Trump to suggest that both countries are to blame for their deteriorated relationship. “When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs,” Sasse said.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.: “Russia is not a friend to the U.S. They have interfered in our elections. They have murdered people. They have invaded other countries. And they have cheated on a nuclear treaty. Russia is not to be trusted.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Trump’s joint appearance with Putin “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” and said Trump had “abased himself … before a tyrant.” McCain said: “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate, but it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Trump missed an opportunity to publicly press Putin on whether he would agree to extradite the indicted Russians accused of attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. “These are serious charges that strike at the core of our democracy, and the individuals who were indicted need to face the allegations being levied against them. . . .It should always be the goal of U.S. presidents to improve relations with other countries, especially ones as large and strategically important as Russia. It’s also important for our leaders to be clear-eyed in their approach. Vladimir Putin isn’t a friend to the United States, to the Western world or our values.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she hoped Trump “delivered a strong message behind closed doors” that Russia would be punished for its illegal annexation of Ukraine and support for a murderous regime in Syria. She said she has “utmost faith” in the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, and Russia continues to pose a threat to the U.S. and its allies.
Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said Trump’s statements “undermine the power of the actions we’ve taken,” such as arming Ukraine, closing Russian consulates and imposing sanctions. “His words must match these tough actions. The Mueller indictments make clear that Russia’s military and intelligence services sought to undermine the confidence of our elections by sowing discord in our partisan environment. … Russia’s behavior and actions are unacceptable and we can’t ignore their flagrant violation of international law.” He added: “We must stand with our intelligence and law enforcement agencies.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Putin was probably celebrating. “He knows he gained a lot,” said the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “I would guess he’s having caviar right now.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted, “This is shameful.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan: “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: It’s a “missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the top Senate Democrat, said never has a U.S. president supported an adversary the way Trump supported Putin.
Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted that Trump’s behavior exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. Brennan says, “It was nothing short of treasonous.”
World-Herald staff writer Joseph Morton contributed to this report.