President Trump has regularly claimed that no president has been tougher on Russia than him, but he has drawn bipartisan criticism for his reluctance to call out Putin, particularly on the matter of election interference.
He said he is “very concerned” that Russia will attempt to interfere in this year’s midterm elections, claiming Moscow “will be pushing very hard” to support Democrats.
Just eight days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin stood beside Trump in Helsinki and said he favored a Trump victory in 2016 as a way to improve relations between their two countries.
Trump provoked an uproar at the Helsinki summit by casting doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. During a press conference in Helsinki, Trump said he didn’t see any reason why Russia would interfere in the presidential election and called Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling a “disaster.” bloomberg reports
U.S. intelligence agencies have found that Russia in 2016 launched an effort to hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and ultimately to help Trump win. This month, Mueller obtained indictments of 12 Russian officials in the GRU military intelligence agency for allegedly orchestrating the hacks of Democratic party organizations and Democratic officials. Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt.”
Controversy over Trump’s messages on Russian election interference has renewed calls for additional sanctions on the Putin government.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Bob Menendez said in a joint statement that just as Putin has sought to challenge U.S. power and influence, “the United States must make it abundantly clear that we will defend our nation and not waver in our rejection of his effort to erode Western democracy.”
His tweet reads, ‘I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!’.