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Lawmakers react to Trump, Putin news conference in Helsinki

President Donald Trump recorded by Michael Cohen discussing paying for Karen McDougal's story

President Donald Trump was recorded longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen discussing potential payment for Karen McDougal’s account of having an affair with him. | AP file photo

Lawmakers and others called out President Donald Trump’s performance at a Monday news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “disgraceful” and “weak.”

Standing next Putin, Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit and seemed to accept Putin’s insistence that Russia’s hands were clean.

House Speaker Paul Ryan
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
“President Trump’s weakness in front of Putin was embarrassing, and proves that the Russians have something on the President, personally, financially or politically. This is a sad day for America, and for all Western democracies that Putin continues to target.”

Sen. John McCain
“Today’s press conference in #Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin
“President Trump’s performance in Helsinki was appalling. By ignoring the evidence of Russian interference in our 2016 election, President Trump joined Vladimir Putin in blaming America for the charges and throwing our intelligence and justice officials under the bus.

“The President’s non-stop preening over his 2016 election victory shows clearly that his ego is more important to him than standing up for America. What part of the seizing of Crimea, shooting down a Malaysian aircraft, invading Ukraine, nerve agent attack in England, threats to Poland and the Baltics, and attacking the U.S. election process makes Vladimir Putin such a loveable rascal in the eyes of Donald Trump?

“President Trump – the self-proclaimed ‘great deal maker’ – growls at our allies and licks the hand of a Russian tyrant. Question to Republican leaders: Will you stand with John McCain’s clear condemnation of President Trump’s Helsinki performance?”

Sen. Jeff Flake
“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.”

Sen. Bob Corker
“I did not think this was a good moment for our country … There’s no question that Putin interfered in the elections… That’s not debatable.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper
“One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader, certainly that I’ve ever seen.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth
“It is difficult to overstate the damage done by Donald Trump’s shocking and disgraceful show of weakness on the world stage. The strong global alliances and global belief in American leadership that Donald Trump has taken just days to tear down over the last week will take generations to rebuild. This is a man who wants to work closely with our fiercest adversaries and believes our allies in the European Union are our foes, but refuses to believe the consensus of his entire intelligence community about Russian interference in the election and its continued threat. Just days after the indictments of 12 Russian military officials for their attacks on our country during the 2016 election, Trump is not only willing to let Vladimir Putin off the hook, he actually holds America responsible for allowing the attacks to happen.”

Sen. Susan Collins
“The Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections, and their efforts are ongoing. The President’s statements today in Helsinki demonstrate his continued refusal to accept the unanimous conclusions of U.S. intelligence leaders and the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee. This position is untenable and at odds with the forceful response this moment demands. Given that we are in an election year, the need to act now to prevent malicious attempts to influence our democracy is urgent.”

Rep. Adam Kinzinger
“The American people deserve the truth, and it’s time we wake up and remember that #Russia is not our friend. Putin is a murderous dictator and an enemy to our freedoms.”

Rep. Dan Lipinski
“Today’s press conference with Trump and Putin was stunning and disturbing. The President must stop putting personal defense and defense of the legitimacy of his election victory ahead of American security and safety. This is unacceptable. America’s intelligence agencies are essential to our national security and
should not be undermined, especially by a president.”

Rep. Peter Roskam
“Russia’s interference with our democratic process is appalling and undeniable. The President has a responsibility to not only confront Vladimir Putin for attacking our democracy, but to use all tools available to prevent future acts of aggression that could undermine the cornerstone of our republic — free and fair elections. Vladimir Putin is not our ally – he is a brutal dictator who has undermined our democratic institutions; invaded and continues to illegally occupy the territory of our allies Ukraine and Georgia; and continues to support the massacre of hundreds of thousands in Syria. We must maintain a united front with our partners around the world to confront Russian aggression. Today’s press conference was an affront to American democracy and the Intelligence Community and a victory for Russian propaganda. The President has a duty to hold Vladimir Putin to account.”

DNC Chairman Tom Perez
“Today’s press conference was a shameful display of cowardice and capitulation. Just days after 12 high-ranking Russian intelligence officers were indicted for their attack on American democracy, Donald Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin and refused to call on Russia not to attack us again. He took Putin’s side over his own government’s. And instead of denouncing Russia’s attack on our democracy, he went after American institutions. Never before has a U.S. president failed so spectacularly to stand up to a hostile foreign power.”

Gov. John Kasich
“The President’s appearance with Putin was not in America’s best interest. Simply put, President Trump is wrong. Putin’s words should never be given equal weight of our own Director of National Intelligence. Putin is a KGB operative trying to undermine the West and supporting other murderous dictators. He cannot and should not be trusted. Other American leaders, in both parties, should speak with one voice and let the world know we are not on the side of Russia.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi
“As expected, President Trump failed to confront President Putin on Russian government interference in our elections and placed more trust in the Russian dictator’s denials than in the assessments of the American intelligence community. President Trump did not carry out his responsibility as a global leader, and he should have done much more than simply asking the question of whether interference occurred. President Trump’s failure to stand up to the Kremlin has given it carte blanche to interfere in our upcoming elections, and that should frighten us all.

Rep. Randy Hultgren
“There is absolutely no doubt as to Russian involvement during the last presidential election. Our intelligence agencies have repeatedly shown that to be true. It is appalling that a foreign entity would involve itself in such a way in our democratic process, and I have said many times before that we cannot ignore these intrusions.

“I believe we need to condemn these intrusions unequivocally, and we have to take action to secure our future elections and transparency. Russia has never been and is not a friend, and I urge President Trump to stand up to the Russians and take a hardline stance against those who only seek to harm the United States and our democracy.”

Rep. Brad Schneider
“By accepting Vladimir Putin’s transparent denials of Russia’s interference in our 2016 election, President Trump today chose to side with a foreign dictator over our own intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The President’s comments are particularly outrageous coming just days after Special Counsel Mueller indicted 12 Russian operatives for election meddling, including reportedly targeting our State Board of Elections in Illinois.

“In addition, President Trump ignored or downplayed Russia’s reprehensible international behavior, including its support for the murderous Assad regime in Syria, illegal occupation of Crimea, and ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. Over the course of his European trip, President Trump was harsher to our NATO allies than to Vladimir Putin.

“Protecting our elections and holding Russia accountable must not be partisan issues. I urge my Republican colleagues to join with Democrats and speak out against President Trump’s shameful display and demand action to protect our elections. Silence will only further embolden Putin’s aggression.”


Trump questions US intel, not Putin, on Russia 2016 meddling
Speaker Paul Ryan: ‘President must appreciate that Russia is not our ally’

Contributing: The Associated Press