Politics & Policy

Ben Sasse Blasts Trump for Handing Putin ‘Propaganda Win’

Sen. Ben Sasse questions Supreme Court nominee judge Neil Gorsuch during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 21, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) chastised President Trump Monday for suggesting during a press conference with Vladimir Putin that the U.S. and Russia are equally to blame for the historically high tensions that currently characterize their relationship.

Speaking to reporters following his one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Trump suggested a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia — a concession Sasse believes damaged America’s standing in the world.

“I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think that we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office,” Mr. Trump said during a joint press conference with Putin.

“This is bizarre and flat-out wrong,” Sasse said of Trump’s comments in a statement released afterward. “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. When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

Trump was immediately criticized by lawmakers and many in the press for failing to explicitly condemn Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election during the press conference.

Asked whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community or Putin regarding the election interference, Trump appeared to side with Putin, calling the Russian president’s denial “strong and powerful” and insisting he sees no reason why the Kremlin would try to interfere.

Trump’s comments stand in sharp contrast to those of many GOP lawmakers and his own national-security adviser John Bolton, who said Sunday that he finds it “hard to believe” Putin was not aware of Russian efforts to interfere in the election.

During the joint press conference, Putin claimed that he and Trump once again discussed the possibility of forming a joint task force to investigate the election meddling, as was mentioned at their last meeting.

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