Rebuking Trump's embrace of Putin, U.S. lawmakers look to punish Russia

By John Whitesides and Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump faced outrage on Tuesday for his failure to hold Russia accountable for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and some U.S.

Reuters July 18, 2018 00:07:05 IST
Rebuking Trump's embrace of Putin, U.S. lawmakers look to punish Russia

Rebuking Trumps embrace of Putin US lawmakers look to punish Russia

By John Whitesides and Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump faced outrage on Tuesday for his failure to hold Russia accountable for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and some U.S. lawmakers threatened action in Congress to punish Moscow and show support for U.S. intelligence agencies.

At a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin after a summit in Helsinki on Monday, Trump stunned politicians back home by shying away from criticizing Putin for Moscow's efforts to undermine the election, contradicting the findings of American intelligence agencies.

Trump, whose summit with Putin concluded a week-long Europe trip that included a NATO meeting and talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May, pushed back on Tuesday at the storm of criticism, blaming media coverage.

"While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way - the Fake News is going Crazy!," he tweeted.

The condemnation for his performance at the Helsinki news conference, including from many fellow Republicans, matched or eclipsed previous controversies in Trump's turbulent 18 months in office.

"The president needs to understand he has damaged U.S. foreign policy," Representative Mike Turner, a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN. "He’s given them a pass and is certainly not holding them accountable for what they’re doing."

Some lawmakers said they would seek remedies in Congress.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a longtime Trump critic, has raised the idea of passing a resolution that would voice lawmakers' support for the U.S. intelligence community and U.S. allies, many of who are feeling the sting of strong Trump criticism in recent weeks.

Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations panel, has floated a resolution similar to Flake's.

Several senators, including Republican Ben Sasse, Republican Pat Toomey, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, have backed more sanctions on Russia, but it was unclear whether Senate or House of Representatives leaders would support such a move or how new sanctions might be crafted.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, calling Russia's government "menacing," said he was willing to consider additional sanctions on Russia, and reiterated his support for U.S. intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

Congress nearly unanimously passed a sanctions law last year targeting Moscow for election meddling and for its actions in Ukraine and Syria. In April, that law led the U.S. Treasury to impose major sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs, in one of Washington's most aggressive moves to punish Moscow.

ELECTION SECURITY

Schumer also called for the immediate passage of legislation to enhance election security, and reiterated calls for the Senate to hold immediate hearings to get testimony from Trump's national security team about what transpired during the private Trump-Putin meeting "so we can find out what the heck happened there."

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election campaign and sought to tilt the vote in Trump's favor, something Moscow has long denied. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is probing that allegation and any possible collusion by Trump's campaign.

Trump has denied collusion and casts Mueller's probe as a witchhunt that detracts from his election victory.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called on Tuesday for passage of legislation increasing funding to improve the security of U.S. election equipment and prevent cyberattacks. Pelosi also wants to force a vote on the House floor on a resolution rebuking Trump's remarks in Helsinki.

Other lawmakers called for members of the Trump administration to resign in protest.

Not all Republicans were angry with the president's conduct in Helsinki. "The president did a good thing by meeting with Putin," Senator Rand Paul told CBS "This Morning" program, comments that won him public thanks from Trump on Twitter.

The issue of Russian election interference could come up later on Tuesday, when Trump was scheduled to meet with members of Congress, although it is expected to focus on tax reform.

Russia's political and media establishment heralded the summit as a victory for Putin in breaking down Western resolve to treat Russia as a pariah.

"The West's attempts to isolate Russia failed," read the headline on a report on Monday's summit meeting in state-run newspaper Rossiisskaya Gazeta.

The summit capped a tumultuous trip during which Trump accused NATO allies of failing to spend enough on their militaries and embarrassed May by saying she had refused to take his advice about how to negotiate Britain's exit from the EU. He referred to the European Union as a "foe" in trade and repeatedly criticized it.

(Reporting by John Whitesides and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Amanda Becker; Writing by John Whitesides and Susan Heavey; Editing by Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.