Senators in disbelief as Donald Trump backs Putin on election meddling, saying 'shameful moment' for U.S.
U.S. lawmakers denounced President Donald Trump’s meeting and joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “unacceptable” and a “shameful moment for our great nation.”
The leaders met Monday in Helsinki for a summit hailed as a “very good start” by Trump. Putin and Trump had fiery responses to questions over Russia’s alleged role in the election in a press conference following their summit.
“President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, later adding he doesn’t see “any reason why” Russia would interfere.
The summit began just hours after Trump blamed the United States — and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea — for a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.
WATCH: Trump says there was ‘nobody to collude with’ during the election
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse,” Trump tweeted Monday morning, blaming “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”
The Russian foreign ministry responded by liking Trump’s tweet and then replying: “We agree.”
Trump also called Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the matter a “disaster for our country” during the Helsinki press conference.
WATCH: Trump calls Mueller investigation ‘a disaster for our country’
Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and former government staff, slammed the president following the news conference, with some saying he committed treason.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake called Trump’s actions “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
“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.
Republican colleague Lindsey Graham said Trump missed an opportunity “to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling.”
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
“This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves,” he tweeted.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said the president’s trip “has just been one giant middle finger” to the U.S.
This entire trip has just been one giant middle finger from President Trump to his own country. Just jaw dropping. https://t.co/pH2GzgpALJ
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 16, 2018
“This entire trip has just been one giant middle finger from President Trump to his own country. Just jaw dropping,” he tweeted.
“This is a sad, shameful moment for our great nation,” Tim Kaine tweeted.
This is a sad, shameful moment for our great nation.
We will reclaim our values and reassert our global leadership. We'll turn the page on this dark chapter. But it won't happen on its own. We all must stand up—to side with U.S. law enforcement and to protect all Americans.
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) July 16, 2018
Former CIA Director John Brennan said Trump’s news conference “was nothing short of treasonous.”
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous,” he tweeted. “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
Putin, speaking through an interpreter, once again denied what he described as “so-called interference of Russia.” He called it “nonsense” and insisted the Russian state had never interfered and would never interfere in the American electoral process.
—with a file from the Associated Press