Government

Officials Decry Trump After News Conference with Putin

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, condemned President Trump’s comments Monday at his joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s behavior at the news conference was a “disgraceful setback” to U.S. global leadership, an “insult” to those serving in U.S. intelligence agencies, and a “disheartening betrayal of every service member defending the U.S. government’s interests against Russian government hostility,” Ryan said in a statement.

Ryan was among several elected officials who reacted negatively in the aftermath of the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki.

During the news conference that followed the meeting between the two leaders, Trump failed to push back on Putin’s denial of what the Russian leader called its “so-called interference” in the 2016 election.

Putin’s denial runs counter to multiple U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded Russia intervened in the election with the intent of helping Trump win the presidency.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said.

Trump also held both Russia and the United States responsible for the strained relationship, and called the probe into Russian interference in the election “a disaster for our country.”

Earlier, before meeting with Putin, Trump tweeted, “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”

Trump’s comments drew strong rebukes from both Democrats and Republicans.

Ryan, in his statement, criticized Trump’s “appeasement of Putin with denials of Russia’s continued cyber attacks on our nation” as “pathetic and weak,” especially after recently referring to the European Union as a “foe” and after 12 Russians were indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Today was truly a low point in the history of American foreign policy. Every American, regardless of political stripes, should be shaken by what we witnessed today in Helsinki. President Trump must be rebuked for deliberately undermining — for his own craven political purposes – nearly a century of western cooperation at the urging of an aggressive foreign adversary who does not share our values of personal and political freedom,” he continued.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also faulted Trump for failing to publicly condemn Moscow’s actions in 2016. He and other Democratic senators last week urged Trump to cancel the meeting with Putin if he wasn’t prepared to press Putin on the election meddling issue and push him to turn over the 12 Russians indicted Friday.

“The intelligence experts we trust to keep America safe have said that Russia continues to threaten our democracy and our critical infrastructure, and the President missed an opportunity to do something about it,” Brown said.

“The Ukrainian community in Ohio knows all too well the dangers of unchecked Russian aggression,” he continued. “We must demand Russia turn over the spies who hacked our election and show Putin we will not put up with threats to our infrastructure that undercut our democratic institutions.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, called Trump’s comments at the news conference “troubling,” and pointed to the U.S. president’s failure to stand up to Putin on “some of the most critical security issues” facing the United States and its allies.

“There is a consensus in the intelligence community that Russia meddled in our elections and continues to try to destabilize democracies around the world. Both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections,” he said. “When given the opportunity, President Trump did not hold President Putin to task for election meddling, for the illegal annexation of Crimea, or for the continued aggression in Eastern Ukraine.”

For there to be a better relationship between the two nations, “We must make clear directly to President Putin and to the world that Russia’s actions on the world stage are unacceptable and a change in their behavior is necessary in order to improve relations,” he added.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said he had hoped for a “stronger public statement” from Trump concerning Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, but added he – nor anyone else – knows what was said when the two met privately.

“Make no mistake about it, Vladimir Putin is a tyrant. He uses fear and intimidation to accomplish his goals, and the evidence of that is his violation of international law when he invaded Ukraine,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that “actions speak louder than words,” and suggested that Trump had been tougher on Russia than his two predecessors by arming opposition forces in Ukraine, imposing what he said were tougher economic sanctions on Russia that still exist today and defying Russian warnings by directly confronting the Russian-backed Assad regime in Syria with military force.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who challenged Trump for the GOP nomination in 2016 and is a frequent critic of the president, said the meeting wasn’t in the nation’s best interest.

“Simply put, President Trump is wrong. Putin’s words should never be given equal weight of our own Director of National Intelligence,” he said. “Putin is a KGB operative trying to undermine the West and supporting other murderous dictators. He cannot and should not be trusted. Other American leaders, in both parties, should speak with one voice and let the world know we are not on the side of Russia.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.