WASHINGTON – Twenty-four hours after President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the fallout from Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill continues.
Many are criticizing Trump for failing to call out Putin and Russia for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
“Both countries are responsible,” Trump said in a joint news conference with Putin.
In a news conference with House leadership Tuesday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) stopped short of criticizing Trump directly but offered a strong rebuke of the Kremlin.
“They did interfere,” Ryan insisted. “I understand the desire and the need to have good relations – that’s perfectly reasonable – but Russia is a menacing government that does not share interest and it does not share our values and I think it should be made very, very clear.”
That sentiment seemed to echo throughout the halls of Congress.
Speaking with a pool of reporters, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said Trump missed an opportunity to relay an important message to Putin: “You mess in our election again and there’s going to be big consequences.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said she was “astonished” by Trump’s lack of support for US intelligence.
“We’ve held countless hearings,” she said of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I remember asking all of our intelligence leaders whether they were all in agreement about the Russian role and there was no dissension.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) was a covert CIA operative before becoming a politician and criticized Trump on CNN.
“I’ve seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people in my career, and I never thought the US president would be one of them,” Hurd told Jake Tapper.
All of this fallout comes after former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, one of Trump’s biggest allies, tweeted his reaction to the Helsinki meeting Monday.
“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,” Gingrich tweeted.
John Brennan, former CIA director under President Barack Obama, called Trump’s performance “treasonous.”
“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???” Brennan tweeted.
One lawmaker to defend Trump was Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who called much of the blowback, “Trump derangement syndrome.”
“This really shows hatred for President Trump more than anything,” Paul told PBS.
Trump tweeted his gratitude for Paul.
“Thank you @RandPaul. ‘The President has gone through a year and a half of totally partisan investigations – what’s he supposed to think?’,” Trump tweeted.
Immediately after the Helsinki meeting, Trump defended his comments with another tweet.
“As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018,” he tweeted.