Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain blasted President Donald Trump for his “disgraceful” performance at a joint news conference with Russia President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” the chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee 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.”
McCain, who has been a frequent critic of the president, accused Trump of being “unwilling” to stand up to Putin, adding they seemed to be speaking from the “same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.”
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” the senator said. “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.”
Today’s press conference in #Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 16, 2018
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer retweeted McCain’s statement and one-upped it tweeting, “In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way @realDonaldTrump has supported President Putin.”
Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 16, 2018
“Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump,” the New York Democrat added.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake — like McCain a frequent Trump critic — felt the president betrayed the United States in Helsinki, and labeled his performance, “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.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
During Monday’s news conference, Putin denied his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections, while Trump emphasized he defeated Hillary Clinton because he ran a better campaign.
“I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including election process,” Putin said.
In response to the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Putin stated his willingness to allow U.S. law enforcement to interface directly with their Russian counterparts to investigate the matter.
When asked if he would denounce Putin, Trump said, “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 and what he did is an incredible offer.”
The president added, “He offered to have the people working on the case, come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that is an incredible offer.”
Trump also stated he wants to know what happened to the Democratic National Committee’s server that was allegedly hacked into by Russians.
“I want to know where is the server?” he said. “I want to know what is the server saying.”
“Why was the FBI asked to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?” Trump questioned. “I’ve been asking that for months and months.”
The president clearly sees special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe as a means for Democrats to delegitimize his election victory over Clinton.
“That was a clean campaign,” Trump said. “I beat Hillary Clinton easily, and frankly we beat her. We won that race and it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. The main thing and we discussed this also: zero collusion.”
“There was no collusion,” he added. “I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with.”
As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
In an apparent response to lawmakers from both parties who criticized the president for seeming to be just as willing to accept Putin’s denial as the U.S. intelligence community’s findings of Russian election interference, Trump tweeted after the news conference, “As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.”
“However,” he continued, “I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!”
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