HELSINKI – Standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own country’s intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit. In addition, the President of the United States seemed to accept the Russian President’s insistence that Russia’s hands were clean, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
It was an extraordinary press conference closing out the Trump-Putin summit in Finland, in which the American president delivered what amounted to a warm embrace to the man who for years has been isolated by the U.S. and Western allies for Russia’s activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond.
Putin suggested Monday that Moscow and Washington could jointly conduct criminal investigations into a dozen Russian intelligence officials accused of hacking during the 2016 U.S. election campaign — an idea Trump hailed as an “incredible offer.”
Trump’s comments, at a joint news conference Monday after the private summit talks with Putin drew heavy criticism back in the U.S., including from prominent Republicans.
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) was most outspoken, declaring that Trump made a “conscious choice to defend a tyrant” and achieved “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) said Trump made the U.S. “look like a pushover.”
And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Tennessee) said “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world, adding that the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader and New York Senior Senator Chuck Schumer said he was “appalled” by Trump’s comments at the press conference, saying that “the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”
When asked for a statement by WRFA, Congressman Tom Reed’s (R-Corning, NY 23) office sent a statement that avoided any mention or criticism of the president, though he was critical of Russia. He also used it as an opportunity to call for an end to an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 elections. His statement read:
“Russia is not our friend, and I have no doubt they have, and are trying to, meddle in our elections. However, there is no evidence of collusion with any American, and it is time for the Mueller probe to come to a close. By completing the investigation, we will restore faith in our democratic electoral process.”
Reed’s opponent in this year’s general election, Democrat Tracy Mitrano (Penn Yan), also released a statement. She said, “Russian interference in the 2016 election has been well established. President Putin’s denial was a transparent lie. President Trump accepted that lie on our behalf in front of the world. I call on all members of the House and Senate to denounce President Trump’s remarks and insist that he either pursue the interests of this country or stop one-on-one diplomatic outreach to dictators.”
Some have even gone as far as to call for President Trump’s removal from office.
Richard Painter, a law professor and former ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, called on all members of congress to “start the process” of impeachment or resign.