WASHINGTON – In case President Trump needs reminding, Republican lawmakers let loose on Monday with a refresher: Russia is not our friend.
In a flurry of tweets and statements, several GOP lawmakers blasted Trump for creating a false equivalency between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. intelligence agencies when he cast doubt on U.S. findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
“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,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Putin after a two-hour closed-door meeting in Helsinki.
One of the toughest responses came from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who called Trump a “novice politician” and said the damage inflicted by Trump’s “naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate.”
"No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant," McCain said.
Here are other tough responses from GOP elected officials:
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
"There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world," he stated. "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."
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Senate Foreign Relations Chairman
“I felt like that everyone who’s dealt with Putin understands fully that the best way to deal with him is through strength,” Corker told reporters. “I just feel like the president’s comments made us look like a nation, more like a pushover.”
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
“I disagree with the president’s comments. There is simply no comparing the actions of the United States and Vladimir Putin. While the United States promotes democracy and human rights, Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine, backed Assad’s gas attacks on the Syrian people, and used cyber-attacks and propaganda campaigns to undermine our democracy. Putin’s actions, and his alone, are why U.S.-Russia relations are at a low point.
“As we approach the November midterm elections, it is critical that Putin understand he will pay a steep price for any further interference in our democratic process. Congress has provided important tools to hold Russia accountable for its meddling. The administration needs to use them to the fullest extent.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
"Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans," Gowdy said in a statement. "I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
“I’m stunned that President Trump failed to take this opportunity to confront President Putin about the interference in our elections. President Trump ultimately validated Putin at the expense of American intelligence by giving credence to Putin’s claim to have not interfered in our elections. While we were not privileged to what was said in the private conversations, it was a missed opportunity for President Trump to not publicly state his support for the conclusions of American intelligence officials and demand Russia not interfere in any future elections. Collusion aside and regardless of what happened before, President Trump should have demanded it never happen again. Sadly, President Trump did not defend America to the Russian president, and for the world to see. Instead, what I saw today was not ‘America First,’ it was simply a sad diminishment of our great nation.”
Sen.Richard Burr, R-N.C., Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman
“Russia has conducted a coordinated cyberattack on state election systems, and hacked critical infrastructure," he said. "They have used social media to sow chaos and discord in our society. They have beaten and harassed U.S. diplomats and violated anti-proliferation treaties. Any statement by Vladimir Putin contrary to these facts is a lie and should be recognized as one by the President.
“Vladimir Putin is not our friend and never has been. Nor does he want to be our friend. His regime’s actions prove it. We must make clear that the United States will not tolerate hostile Russian activities against us or our allies.”