The Latest: Trump defends call congratulating Putin
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s call to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election victory (all times local):
President Donald Trump is defending his decision to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election, saying his predecessor, Barack Obama, did the same in 2012.
In a Wednesday afternoon tweet, Trump says, “Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
It comes as Trump and White House officials are said to be fuming over a leak of Trump’s briefing materials for the Tuesday call, in which aides warned Trump against congratulating Putin.
Trump says Russia can “help solve problems” from North Korea to “the coming Arms Race.” He adds that President George W. Bush did not have the “smarts” to work with Putin, and says Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “didn’t have the energy or chemistry” with the Russian leader.
The White House says it’s a “fireable offense and likely illegal” to leak President Donald Trump’s briefing papers.
The warning came after several news outlets including The Associated Press reported that aides had included a warning in Trump’s briefing papers advising him not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election win, but he did so anyway.
The White House said in an official statement Wednesday: “If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the President’s briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal.”
The White House wouldn’t confirm that Trump was warned “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Putin, as a senior administration official told the AP on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
It was unclear whether Trump read the talking points prepared by his national security team before Tuesday’s call. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster briefed the president in person before the call.
— By Associated Press writer Zeke Miller.
A senior administration official says President Donald Trump was warned in briefing materials to refrain from congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election victory, but he did so anyway.
The official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that aides had included a section in Trump’s briefing materials for the call stating in all-caps: “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
The “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” message was first reported Tuesday by The Washington Post.
It was unclear whether Trump, who prefers oral briefings, read the talking points prepared by his national security team before Tuesday’s call. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster briefed the president in person before the call in the White House residence.
The State Department spokeswoman noted that some people were paid to turn out to vote in Russia and opposition leaders were intimidated or jailed.
— By Associated Press writer Zeke Miller
Some Republican lawmakers are criticizing President Donald Trump for calling Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his re-election.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said, “An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.” McCain’s Arizona colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake, labeled Trump’s congratulatory call “odd” while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said calling Putin “wouldn’t have been high on my list.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that President Barack Obama made a similar call at the time of Putin’s last electoral victory. Huckabee said, “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”
In the call Trump didn’t raise Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections or its suspected involvement in the poisoning of a former spy in Britain.