Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday said that Russia is not a friend of the U.S. and that he firmly stands behind the intelligence community’s finding that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election.
“I have said a number of times, I’ll say it again: The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community,” McConnell told reporters hours after President Trump refused to condemn Russia for interfering in the 2016 election at a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters, echoing Putin’s denials. “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump also blamed the U.S. for the current low point in U.S.-Moscow relations.
Several GOP senators have publicly condemned Trump’s rhetoric.
“President Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. elections with the goal of undermining faith in our democratic process. Russia has conducted a coordinated cyberattack on state election systems, and hacked critical infrastructure. They have used social media to sow chaos,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C) said in a statement.
Burr added that any statement that Putin makes that contradicts “these facts is a lie and should be recognized as one by the President.”
“I don’t believe Mr. Putin and I believe our intelligence officials who produced the intelligence community assessment and I believe the indictment that Robert Mueller has now presented is well taken,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
“I think members of Congress believe as I do that Russia did attempt to meddle in the election. That they were unsuccessful in changing the outcome. … I think [the president] is conflating two different things: The meddling and the collusion allegations, for which there does not appear to be any evidence.”
Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted: “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???”
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
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) blasted President Trump minutes after a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling his rhetoric “shameful.”
“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. This is shameful,” Flake tweeted.
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. This is shameful.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
GOP Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) called Trump’s remarks “bizarre and flat-out wrong.”
“Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) warned. “This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves,” he said in a tweet.
Finally, if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 16, 2018