President Donald Trump stood at a podium beside Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki Monday and was asked by a reporter whether he believed Putin, or the conclusions of U.S. intelligence experts, on whether the Russians had interfered in the 2016 general election — which he won.
“In so many words, Trump gave the answer: Putin,” summarized NPR’s Ron Elving.
“My people came to me. Dan Coats came to me, and some others,” Trump said in part, referencing his national security director. “They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.”
- Transcript: Trump And Putin's Joint Press Conference
- Trump's Helsinki Bow To Putin Leaves World Wondering: Why?
The reaction in the United States was swift. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, were among those of both parties stunned by Trump’s answer.
Among Coloradans in the U.S. House and Senate, not one came to the president’s defense. Only one congressman, 5th District Republican Doug Lamborn, has been silent publicly. Here are their statements:
Sen. Cory Gardner, Republican:
“Whether it be chemical attacks on allied soil, the invasion of Ukraine, propping up the murderer Assad in Syria, or meddling in our elections through cyber-attacks, Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains an adversary to the United States. I believe Russia is a state sponsor of terror and I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate the State Department to determine whether Russia merits this designation, along with their allies Iran and Syria that are already designated. Additionally, I will continue to support maximum economic sanctions on Russia, including the full implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2.
I encourage the Administration to avoid the mistakes of past Administrations in normalizing relations with Russia at zero cost to Putin and his regime. The only ‘reset’ we can have with Russia is when it completely reverses course and begins to act in accordance with civilized norms and international law. Nothing should change as of today – Putin’s Russia is not a friend to the United States.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, Democrat:
“By taking Vladimir Putin at his word—when it directly contradicts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment and the investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—President Trump not only has failed to protect our democracy, but also has emboldened Russia and other adversaries at the expense of our allies.
President Trump should have used this meeting to hold Putin accountable for undermining democracies around the world, a chemical attack on United Kingdom soil, and the continued illegal annexation of Crimea. Instead, he held a summit with no plan that only served to elevate Putin on the world stage. In the face of attacks on our allies and partners in the European Union and NATO, Republicans and Democrats in Congress must work to protect the international institutions that advance our values and freedoms.”
Rep. Diana DeGette, 1st District, Democrat:
“Trump has, indeed, become Putin’s puppet," she said on Twitter. “It is dangerous, disingenuous & absurd for a U.S. president to take the word of Putin over our intelligence community. Further, POTUS statements undermining FBI and shifting blame for Russian misdeeds are outrageous.”
Rep. Jared Polis, 2nd District, Democrat:
“President Trump is at best extremely weak and gullible on the international stage, and at worst is beholden financially, politically, or personally to a hostile foreign power," Polis said in a series of posts on Twitter. “Having such a weak or even compromised President is a major threat to our national security.”
“In one week, President Trump attacked our allies in NATO and cozied up to Putin who funds and provides military support for hostile regimes in Syria and Iran — and represents an imminent threat to the freedom and independence of the Baltic states.”
“We need to stand with our allies and in strong opposition to the rising tide of fascism and extreme nationalism that, historically, always ends with death and suffering.”
Rep. Scott Tipton, 3rd District, Republican:
“Vladimir Putin is not our friend, and there is ample evidence that Russia meddled in our elections. Russia has repeatedly violated international law, shown disregard for national sovereignty, engaged in human rights abuses, propped up state sponsors of terror, and fueled global instability,” said Tipton. “Russia’s attacks on our electoral system damage the very democratic principles upon which our country was built. I strongly urge President Trump and this Administration to hold Russia and Putin accountable. I will continue to support strong economic sanctions against Russia and measures to protect the integrity of our elections.”
Rep. Ken Buck, 4th District, Republican:
“Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election are disgraceful. We should work to improve American relations with our adversaries, but not at the cost of our nation’s soul,” he said on Twitter.
Rep. Doug Lamborn, 5th District, Republican:
Congressman Lamborn has not made any statements regarding the Trump-Putin meeting.
Rep. Mike Coffman, 6th District, Republican:
“Putin’s Russia isn’t our friend, won’t be an ally and most certainly won’t stop their rogue behavior against our country, our allies and our interests. As I’ve said in the past — President Trump should never take Putin’s word at face value and should give greater consideration to U.S. Intelligence agencies over the Kremlin’s rhetoric. As a Marine Corps combat veteran, and member of the House Armed Services Committee, I don’t take lightly my oath to defend our country against enemies foreign and domestic, and neither should the president. Both Bush and Obama learned this the hard way in their first terms.”
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, 7th District, Democrat:
“Today is yet another example of President Trump favoring Russian President Vladimir Putin over the democracy and national security of the United States. In January 2017, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies proved Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. This was confirmed again last week when Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian government agents for their efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. And today we heard Putin himself admit he wanted President Trump to win the 2016 presidential election.
Yet President Trump continues to take Putin, a former KGB officer, at his word while disregarding evidence from U.S. intelligence agencies and ignoring threats of future attacks on our democracy. Why is President Trump so afraid of getting to the truth? The Mueller investigation must continue so we can fully understand what happened in the 2016 election and make sure it never happens again.”