Trump’s surrender to Putin greeted with outrage by Democrats and Republicans | US news
Criticism came from familiar corners such as the Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, but of note were some usually friendly voices who added to the chorus, including the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and the former House speaker, Newt Gingrich, who called Trump’s behavior the “most serious mistake of his presidency”.
The two presidents met in Helsinki for their first summit just days after the US justice department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in a concerted effort to help lift Trump to power.
Many Democrats reacted with shock as some party lawmakers panned Trump’s performance as “unprecedented” and destructive to America’s standing on the world stage.
“In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous and weak. The president is putting himself over our country.”
Schumer went on to speculate whether Putin somehow had undue influence on Trump. “A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: what could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States?” he continued. “Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”
In a Facebook post, the former vice-president Joe Biden called Trump’s comportment at the press conference “beneath the dignity of the office of the president”. He urged Congress to “speak out to make it clear that we believe in democracy over dictatorship, that we support our allies and not those who seek to weaken us, and that we will defend our freedom when it is attacked”.
John Brennan, the CIA director under Barack Obama, said Trump’s conduct was “nothing short of treasonous” and called on Republicans to condemn his behavior.
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” he tweeted.
A familiar cast of dissident Republican lawmakers swiftly rebuked Trump in terms that echoed some of what Democrats were saying.
Arizona senator John McCain angrily denounced Trump and called the press conference a “pathetic rout” and “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”.
In a statement McCain said: “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake … No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”
Others joined in. “I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” wrote Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican of Arizona who is retiring this year after high-profile clashes with Trump. “This is shameful.”
In a thread on Twitter, Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, who plays both Trump ally and critic, called it a “bad day for the US” and repeated the conclusion that Russia meddled in the US presidential election.
“This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves,” Graham said.
“The American people deserve the truth, & to disregard the legitimacy of our intelligence officials is a disservice to the men & women who serve this country,” said Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger. “It’s time to wake up & face reality. #Putin is not our friend; he’s an enemy to our freedom.”
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, said Trump’s comments that “both countries” were responsible for the deterioration in US-Russia relations is “bizarre and flat out wrong”.
“The United States is not to blame,” Sasse said. “America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”
But there were also other Republican voices adding to the chorus of criticism who usually shy away from taking on Trump. Ryan, who said there was “no question” that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, added: “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”
Meanwhile Gingrich, a confidant of the president, delivered a rare rebuke: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately.”