US lawmakers blast 'shameful' Trump after Helsinki summit with Putin
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Donald Trump returned late Monday to Washington, where US intelligence officials and senior Republicans denounced the president as “shameful” and “disgraceful” after he refused to challenge the Russian president over interference in US elections.
Republican Senator John McCain said Trump’s seeming acceptance of Vladimir Putin’s denial was a historical “low point” for the US presidency and the Helsinki summit between the two leaders a “tragic mistake".
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” McCain said in a blistering statement.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”
I've seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people over my professional career and I never would have thought that the US President would become one of the ones getting played by old KGB hands.Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) July 16, 2018
Taking direct issue with the president who appointed him, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said US spy agencies have been “clear” and “fact-based” in their assessment that Moscow interfered in the presidential race two years ago an assessment that Trump refused to endorse in Helsinki.
Coats added that Russia remains behind “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy".
Denial came after 12 Russians indicted
Putin “just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
That came three days after the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russians for hacking Democratic Party computers, the latest in a series of actions taken by the US government since late 2016 in retribution for what intelligence agencies say was a broad plan to support Trump’s election campaign directed by Putin himself.
Yet Trump appeared to take Putin’s word in dismissing that conclusion.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Trump also appeared to embrace Putin’s offer to have Russian investigators work together with US prosecutors on the case of the 12 just indicted.
“I think that’s an incredible offer.”
Astonished Republicans and Democrats uniformly condemned Trump, with harsh criticism coming even from hosts on Fox News a network normally friendly to the president.
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said.
Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Trump’s answer on meddling “will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness".
#Putin’s interference in 2016 didn’t elect Trump & it doesn’t mean we don’t deal with him on other issues. But we can’t afford to forget he always exploits weakness. If we don’t acknowledge & punish what he did,his next attack on us will be bolder,more brazen & far more damaging.Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 16, 2018
Bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief, Trump headed into the summit blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.
“This is shameful,” said Senator Jeff Flake, a fellow Republican and staunch critic of the president.
“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.”
‘Green light to interfere’
The language used by Democrats was much harsher, including accusations of “treason.”
Starting with the president’s trip to NATO and ending with his shameful performance at today’s press conference, @realDonaldTrump has strengthened our adversaries while weakening our defenses and those of our allies.Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 16, 2018
“For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defence officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak,” said Chuck Schumer, the senior Democrat in the Senate.
Democratic California Representative Jimmy Gomez charged: “To side with Putin over US intelligence is disgusting; to fail to defend the US is on the verge of treason.”
Every single day, I find myself asking: what do the Russians have on @realDonaldTrump personally, financially, & politically? The answer to that question is that only thing that explains his behavior & his refusal to stand up to Putin. #ABetterDealNancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) July 16, 2018
Congressman Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump had given Putin “a green light to interfere in 2018".
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy was blunter: “This entire trip has just been one giant middle finger from President Trump to his own country. Just jaw dropping,” he wrote on Twitter.
Coats’ statement was seen as an uncommonly brusque pushback by the US intelligence community against the White House.
Retired spy chiefs were more direct however.
Coat’s predecessor, James Clapper, called Trump’s acquiescence to Putin “an incredible capitulation", while former CIA chief John Brennan labelled it "nothing short of treasonous".
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)