Republicans Rebuke Trump for Siding With Putin as Democrats Demand Action
WASHINGTON — For nearly two years, Republicans have watched uncomfortably, in addition to often in silence, as President Trump has swatted away accusations which Russia interfered from the 2016 presidential race, attacked his own intelligence agencies in addition to flattered President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
On Monday, even for members of his own party, Mr. Trump apparently went too far.
The president’s extraordinary news conference with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland, stunned Republicans across the ideological spectrum in addition to the party’s political apparatus, leaving them struggling to respond after the president undermined his national intelligence director, blamed both the United States in addition to Russia for poor relations between the two countries in addition to seemingly agreed to Mr. Putin’s suggestion which Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, cooperate with Russia.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, declared, “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker in addition to Trump adviser, declared the news conference “the most serious mistake of his presidency.” Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee in addition to current Senate candidate via Utah, called which “disgraceful in addition to detrimental to our democratic principles.”
The effect extended far beyond official Washington. One local official — Chris Gagin, the chairman of the Republican Party in Belmont County, Ohio — resigned his post, announcing on Twitter which he “did so as a matter of conscience, in addition to my sense of duty.” Neil Cavuto, a Fox Business Network host, called Mr. Trump’s performance “disgusting,” adding, “I’m sorry, which’s the only way I feel. which’s not a right or left thing to me, which’s just wrong.”
Yet no Republican in Congress pledged any particular action to punish Mr. Trump, such as holding up his nominees or delaying legislation, nor did any Republican promise hearings or increased oversight.
which was left to Senator Chuck Schumer of brand-new York, the Democratic leader, to demand actual action. He called for increased sanctions on Russia; for Mr. Trump’s national security team to testify before Congress; for defense of the Department of Justice in addition to some other intelligence agencies; in addition to for Mr. Trump to press Mr. Putin to extradite the 12 Russian intelligence agents who were indicted Friday.
“from the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin,” Mr. Schumer said.
He added: “1, ominous question right now hangs over the White House: What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder. The only possible explanation just for which dangerous behavior is usually the possibility which President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”
Republican leaders largely tempered their remarks, confining their backhanded comments to denunciations of Russia in addition to expressions of faith in American intelligence agencies. nevertheless even they appeared to have given up expect which they could shape the actions of an erratic in addition to unpredictable president.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican from the Senate, concluded which Mr. Trump was unable to separate between the fact which Russia had interfered from the election in addition to the accusation — as yet unproven — which the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia.
“from the president’s mind, I think he’s conflating different things — the meddling in addition to the collusion allegations for which there does not appear to be any evidence,” Mr. Cornyn said.
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of brand-new York in addition to a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who has defended Mr. Trump amid the Russia inquiry, was not quite as charitable: “I understand from the bigger picture the president genuinely feels which he can establish better relations with Russia the way Nixon did with China,” Mr. King said in an interview, “nevertheless the nuance eludes him.”
in addition to as to Mr. Trump’s openness to having Russia cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s investigation, Mr. King said, “which could be like bringing ISIS into a joint terrorism task force.”
At least one Republican, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, veered via the script in addition to delivered a full-throated defense of Mr. Trump: “I think which’s a not bad idea to have engagement, in addition to I guess I don’t quite understand all of the people who have gone completely deranged criticizing the president.”
Elected Republicans have been uneasy about Mr. Trump’s unorthodox views toward Russia in addition to his willingness to embrace Mr. Putin since Mr. Trump first grabbed the attention of the party as its primary contest heated up in summer 2015. Many thought which once he was in office, surrounded by Washington’s national security experts, Mr. Trump could adopt the wary stance which has guided previous American presidents.
Instead, time in addition to again he has defied those expectations, as he repeatedly called into question the collective conclusions of the C.I.A., the F.B.I. in addition to some other intelligence agencies, in addition to ignored his own advisers’ advice in seeking a personal relationship with Mr. Putin.
For most Republicans on Capitol Hill in addition to around the country, Mr. Trump’s stance toward Mr. Putin, coupled with his recent attacks on the United States’ allies in Europe, have presented a challenge: either defend the post-World War II international order, in addition to risk angering a president who is usually immensely common with their voters, or hold their tongues.
which challenge is usually especially tricky for Republican leaders, who must work closely with Mr. Trump in addition to are especially reluctant to criticize him in public.
Hours passed on Monday before Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky in addition to the majority leader, commented. During a rare hallway interview from the Capitol, he uttered three terse sentences: “The Russians are not our friends. I’ve said which repeatedly, I say which again today. in addition to I have complete confidence in our intelligence community in addition to the findings which they have announced.” He refused to answer questions.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan was a bit more pointed. “The president must appreciate which Russia is usually not our ally,” he said in a carefully worded statement. “There is usually no moral equivalence between the United States in addition to Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values in addition to ideals.”
Democrats wanted more than carefully calibrated statements.
“which is usually a disgraceful moment. The president’s party knows better,” John Kerry, the former secretary of state in addition to senator, wrote in a statement. “America needs them to speak out with clarity in addition to conviction not just in which news cycle, nevertheless until there’s common sense governing America’s foreign policy.”
Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, suggested on Twitter which if Republicans “were serious,” they could pass a long-stalled legislation protecting the jobs of special counsels such as Mr. Mueller.
nevertheless Republican leaders did not appear ready to go beyond measured phrases. Mr. Cornyn told reporters which which was “wishful thinking” to expect Mr. Putin to agree to the extradition of the 12 Russian agents. “Much of what Senator Schumer’s asking for, I think we’ve already done,” he added.
As Republican leaders struggled to come up with tactful ways to respond to a stunning news conference, responses via some of their colleagues signified a moment when Republicans could not defend their president.
Mr. McCain’s was undoubtedly the harshest.
“which is usually tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation in addition to inexperience,” said Mr. McCain, who has brain cancer.
“nevertheless these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician,” he continued. “These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity from the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties in addition to his assault on democratic institutions throughout the entire world.”
Mr. McCain’s fellow Republican senator via Arizona, Jeff Flake, released his own rebuke: “I never thought I could see the day when our American president could stand on the stage with the Russian president in addition to place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. which is usually shameful.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican Alaska, struck a mournful tone: “Sadly President Trump did not defend America to the Russian president, in addition to for the entire world to see. Instead, what I saw today was not ‘America First,’ which was simply a sad diminishment of our great nation.”
Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska in addition to a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, echoed the sentiment. “Everyone in which body should be disgusted by what happened in Helsinki today,” he said Monday in a speech on the Senate floor.
Even for congressional Republicans used to avoiding commenting on the president’s outbursts, Mr. Trump’s performance in Helsinki was difficult to ignore. For those who are accustomed to speaking out against Mr. Trump, in addition to those whose impending retirements have freed them to do so, which was yet another occasion for public hand-wringing.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the retiring chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said which he “did not think which was a not bad moment for our country.”
which was, he added, a very not bad moment for Mr. Putin.
“which was almost an approval, if you will, a public approval by the greatest nation on earth towards him,” Mr. Corker told reporters. “I could guess he’s having caviar right right now.”
Noah Weiland contributed reporting.