Republican lawmakers were left shaking their heads after President Trump’s Monday’s press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin, in which Trump declined to endorse the American intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory” and a “tragic mistake” in a statement. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” McCain said. “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.”
House speaker Paul Ryan also rebuked Trump, asserting that there is “no question” Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Ryan said. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”
Senator Jeff Flake, a frequent critic of the president, called the press conference “shameful” and said Trump “placed blame on the United States for Russian aggression.”
Another outspoken critic, Senator Bob Corker, said he does want America to have a good relationship with Russia but thinks Trump made the U.S. look “more like a pushover.”
Senator Lindsey Graham called the summit a “missed opportunity” to hold Russia responsible for trying to undermine U.S. elections.
Staunch Trump ally Orrin Hatch issued a statement unequivocally blaming Russia for election meddling.
“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,” the Utah senator said.
“Russia is not our friend,” Representative Trey Gowdy chimed in. “Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans.”
Senator John Cornyn also said he believes the American intelligence community.
“I don’t think we should be taking a former KGB colonel’s word for what their intelligence apparatus is doing or not doing,” the Senate majority whip said.
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, reiterated that, “President Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. elections with the goal of undermining faith in our democratic process,” before adding that, “Any statement by Vladimir Putin contrary to these facts is a lie and should be recognized as one by the President.”