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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Key members of Congress, including some Republicans, are criticizing President Donald Trump's performance at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as "bizarre," ''shameful" and a "missed opportunity" to stand up to Russia.

House Speaker Paul Ryan delivered a strongly worded statement, saying there's "no question" that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, and noting that U.S. intelligence agencies and a House panel agreed.

"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," Ryan said. He added Russia "remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals."

Other high-profile Republicans also expressed dismay.

"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," tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. "This is shameful."

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called it "bizarre" and "flat-out wrong" for Trump to suggest that both the U.S. and Russia are to blame for the deteriorated state of the two countries' relationship.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, noted on Twitter that U.S. intelligence agents are "confident that Russia intervened in the 2016 elections."

"I agree w/ their assessment & believe our relationship w/ Russia must consistently be viewed through this lens," he wrote. "Russia is not our friend."

Even Trump's sometimes ally Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called the summit a "missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections."

Graham quipped that Trump ought to check a soccer ball Putin gave to Trump for listening devices, "and never allow it in the White House."

At the joint appearance in Finland with Putin, Trump repeated the Russian leader's denials about involvement in the election.

"He just said it's not Russia," Trump said of Putin. "I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."

Former intelligence chiefs who served under President Barack Obama were scathing in their criticism of his remarks. John Brennan, who served as CIA director between 2013 and January 2017, called the president's comments "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.

James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence under Obama between 2010 and 2017, described Trump remarks as "truly unbelievable."

"On the world stage in front of the entire globe the president of the United States essentially capitulated and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin," Clapper told CNN. "It was amazing and very, very disturbing."

Clapper described Putin as an "arch enemy of the United States" who seeks to undermine its democracy and elections. "He has got to be celebrating on the way home to Moscow."

Democrats sounded similar alarm. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted, "For the President to side with Putin over his own intelligence officials and blame the United States for Russia's attack on our democracy is a complete disgrace."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, says never in the history of the country has a president supported an American adversary the way Trump supported Putin. "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."

Yet while Trump's remarks drew criticism in both parties, the reaction was more muted from the Republican side. Key GOP lawmakers at least initially refrained from directly attacking Trump's performance, and at least one echoed the president's criticism of the special counsel probe.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California said he takes the charges filed by Mueller's team seriously, but added, "I personally would neither rule in nor rule out the validity of a very interesting and odd-timed indictment of people who can never be brought to justice."

Comments

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  • BOLTAR
    July 16, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

    What past or current President would deserve our support after this shameful performance?

  • hah406
    July 16, 2018 at 2:58 p.m.

    He committed treason. Aid and comfort to our enemy. Undermined the integrity and standing of the United States. Consorts with our enemies. Should be impeached and removed from office. As bad as I dislike Pence, he would not make these mistakes.

  • TimberTopper
    July 16, 2018 at 3:24 p.m.

    Let it forever be known, that in the year of our Lord 2018, an American President of the United States of America, of the Republican Party, did everything but kiss the ass of a Russian President on Worldwide TV. And some voters in that Party think it was fine.

  • Packman
    July 16, 2018 at 3:36 p.m.

    To all you bedwetting libs: Settle down, Francis.
    .
    Not sure if President Trump purposefully made these remarks to drive libs over the edge (see comment by hah406 and Timber, for example) but that's what's happening nevertheless. Or it may be no more complicated than President Trump views world events through the lens of a regular guy and not a career politician or Washington elite.
    .
    So, would it have made you bedwetting libs feel better if Trump had something like "F you, Vlad, you lying sack of sh*t. Of course you meddled in the election and the only reason I beat Hillary is because of YOU. My winning had nothing to do with the fact I was the better candidate and voters preferred a citizen representative to a member of America's political elite."
    .
    Seriously, bedwetters, would it have been better for President Trump to hand Putin a victory by crediting Putin's meddling as being real and a success?

  • BillMurray
    July 16, 2018 at 3:38 p.m.

    In all honesty, what could they possibly have on Trump that would make him look worse in the eyes of most Americans? His actions the past couple of years have been so shameful and embarrassing that a "pee tape" probably wouldn't move the needle of public perception.

  • DoubleBlind
    July 16, 2018 at 4:03 p.m.

    Trump is being savaged by the worldwide press and many in his party. He will not recover from this. It is indefensible. Maybe he’ll track a little novichok onto AF1. MRGA!

  • BoudinMan
    July 16, 2018 at 4:05 p.m.

    The rationalizing and normalizing of the trump treasonous behavior has already begun. The kommie komrades are speaking out.

  • RBear
    July 16, 2018 at 4:26 p.m.

    Pack you sorry sack of wussy sh*t. You are so far up Trump’s a** you can’t even see the issue here. Countless Rs, Ds, policy experts, and just generally rational folks are disgusted with Trump’s handling of this matter. The bottom line is there was meddling and we now see that it was perpetrated by Putin and the Russian government. I know this stuff is so far over your issue illiteracy that you show how stupid you can be with your BOHICA comment.

  • RBear
    July 16, 2018 at 4:34 p.m.

    Today, the president basically admitted to being a state actor for Russia. The private meeting required by both Putin and Trump was essentially for them to get their statements straight. Only folks like Pack and probably moz would accept Trump’s statement over the US intelligence community. The credibility of the office of the president has been destroyed today.

  • kirk
    July 16, 2018 at 4:45 p.m.

    It is another sad day for America. We appeared weak, unprepared, unprincipled and guilty of something. This President has set the country and the Republican Party back light years. As a lifelong Republican, I am not afraid to stand up and say enough is enough. Count me as no longer a member of the GOP that has lost its "Grand" status. I will donate, work for and vote for Democrats...not because I embrace their overall philosophy but because this President is incapable, unAmerican and out of control. We must have a Democratic Congress to stem his abuse and incompetence.

    Just a disgraceful and disturbing day for America. The whole trip to Europe has been a catastrophic embarrassment. Tepid tweets and half-hearted head shaking by Republicans in Congress is not enough. Stand up and be a leader instead of an enabler.

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