Arkansas’ two U.S. Senators joined the majority of Republican Senators who pushed back against President Donald Trump’s comments following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But like many of their peers they did not mention Trump by name.
The President received broad and often sharp rebukes Monday after a post-summit press conference with Putin in Helsinki, Finland. In response to media questions, President Trump disagreed with all national intelligence agencies and his own national intelligence director in saying that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 elections. The President also blamed both countries for years of poor relations, and in an unexpected note appeared to suggest Russia should be involved with the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., both said after the press conference that Russia is not a friend, with Ryan noting that there “is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia.” McConnell nor Ryan mentioned Trump by name in their initial statements.
U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also issued statements that didn’t mention Trump by name but contradicted the President’s assessment of Russia.
“Our nation’s intelligence community, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee is confident that Russia intervened in the 2016 elections. I agree with their assessment and believe our relationship with Russia must be consistently viewed through this lens. Russia is not our friend,” Boozman said.
Sen. Cotton issued this more detailed statement: “U.S.–Russia relations remain at a historic low for one simple reason: Vladimir Putin is a committed adversary of the United States. In the last few years alone, Russia meddled in our presidential campaign, violated arms-control treaties with the United States, invaded Ukraine, assassinated political opponents in the United Kingdom, made common cause with Iran in propping up Bashar al-Assad’s outlaw regime in Syria, and cheated not only in the Olympics, but even in the Paralympics. These are not the actions of a friend, an ally, or merely a nation with aligned interests. Until Russian behavior changes, our policy should not change. The United States should stay on the strategic offensive against Russia by maintaining sanctions, rebuilding our military, modernizing our nuclear forces, expanding missile defenses, sending more weapons to our allies, and producing more oil and gas. Strength is the one language for which Vladimir Putin needs no interpreter.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, tweeted this after the Trump-Putin press conference: “I’m disappointed the President downplayed the very real threat Russia poses to our country and our values. Make no mistake, Russia is dangerous. I thank the brave individuals in our intelligence community who work daily to keep America safe.”
One of the few members of Congress to side with President Trump was U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
“I think it’s a good idea to have engagement, and I guess I don’t quite understand all of the people who have gone completely deranged criticizing the president,” Rand said.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a frequent critic of President Trump, issued possibly the harshest statement.
“It is tempting to describe the news conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. 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 in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.”