WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement today after President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin and their joint press conference in Helsinki:
“I urged President Trump not to go through with this ill-advised meeting because I thought he’d let Putin off the hook for attacks on our democracy, which he did, in disastrous fashion.
“President Trump’s deference to Putin today will lead to more Russian interference and cyber-aggression against us, our allies, and partners.
“At times, President Trump sounded more like Putin’s press agent than the President of the United States. Some of his comments could have come straight from a Russian disinformation operation. The propaganda, dissembling, and denials fit right into Russia’s hybrid operations against us.
“By heaping praise on Putin, and accepting Putin’s denials over the findings of U.S. intelligence on the world stage like that, President Trump did real harm to America. It was truly a shocking, dangerous break from the actions of past Presidents of both parties.
“It was disgraceful for President Trump to wrongfully blame the U.S. as being responsible for the hostility between our countries, rather than Russia’s blatant election interference, continued cyber-attacks on America, and aggression against allies and partners.
“It was shameful for the President of the United States to endorse Putin’s sham offer to have Russian operatives be a part of the Mueller probe in exchange for Putin’s spies questioning U.S. intelligence officials.
“This is the first time I can recall an American President taking the word of a Russian autocrat over the word of his own intelligence officials. Instead of listening to U.S. intelligence leaders who explicitly told President Trump that the lights of Russian aggression “are blinking red again,” he gave a green light to Putin to continue targeted cyber attacks and election interference. These are not appointees of Barack Obama or George W. Bush, these are the men and women that President Trump chose to lead American intelligence and they’re telling him that the Russians are continuing to do this and that they will keep doing it if they’re given the opportunity, and the President’s giving them every opportunity.
“Today, Vladimir Putin can claim victory based on what President Trump did not do at this summit: he did not condemn the annexation of Crimea or aggression in Eastern Ukraine; nor did he condemn Russian interference in the U.S. election, or Russian aggression in Europe, or challenge Russian Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty violations.
“I urge my Republican colleagues to stand up for the security and the integrity of our democracy and condemn President Trump’s performance today. They need to do what President Trump would not: speak out in the clearest and strongest terms in condemning Russia’s attack on our democracy. Congress should also call on the President to retract his statement endorsing Putin over the U.S. Intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference.
“And I urge the Trump Administration to finally issue a comprehensive strategy to counter Russian malign influence, as called for in last year’s NDAA.”<