POLITICS
07/16/2018 01:26 pm ET Updated Jul 17, 2018

Republicans Pan Trump's 'Bizarre' Press Conference With Putin

Trump's refusal to condemn Putin "will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Republican lawmakers slammed President Donald Trump for not being tougher on Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland.

Trump refused to condemn the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as determined by the United States intelligence community. Instead, he said “we’re all to blame” for deteriorated relations between the two countries. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the press conference a “missed opportunity” for Trump to hold Russia accountable for the attempted election interference. 

Trump’s refusal to call out Russia “will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves,” Graham tweeted.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said succinctly: “The Russians are not our friends. I’ve said that repeatedly, I say it again today. And I have complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings that they have announced.” He did not answer questions after his statement at the U.S. Capitol, according to The New York Times.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) urged America to be “clear” and label Russia a “foe” following the roughly 40-minute press conference.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) skewered Trump for failing “to defend all that makes us who we are” as Americans.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” McCain said in a statement. “Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad.”

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) dubbed Trump’s decision to hold both countries responsible for poor U.S.-Russia relations as “bizarre” and “flat-out wrong.”

“The United States is not to blame,” he said in a statement. “America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Monday defended the intelligence community against Trump’s attempts to once again undermine its credibility by refusing to blame Russia for election meddling.

“From the President on down, we must do everything in our power to protect our democracy by securing future election from foreign interference, regardless of what Vladimir Putin or any other Russian operative says,” Hatch said in a statement.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), an outspoken critic of Trump, echoed his fellow Republican senators. He called the press conference “shameful.”

House Republicans, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), also blasted Trump’s refusal to call out Putin.

“It’s time to wake up & face reality,” Kinzinger tweeted. "#Putin is not our friend; he’s an enemy to our freedom.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) urged the U.S. to focus on “holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.” 

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan said in a statement.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) stood by the findings of the U.S. intelligence community and the House Intelligence Committee.

“Russia is not our friend,” Gowdy said in a statement. “It is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing [Trump’s] electoral success.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Fox News contributor and frequent Trump cheerleader, ripped the president’s comments in Helsinki as “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”

Unsurprisingly, Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), also took a hard stance against Trump’s friendly rhetoric toward the United States’ longtime foreign adversary. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted Trump for failing “to stand up to Putin.”

CONVERSATIONS