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US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16.

Trump Under Unprecedented Fire From Republican Allies

Trump’s “America First” slogan morphed into “Me First” as the US president unloaded on the intelligence community and Justice Department to portray himself as the victim of a conspiracy to deny him legitimacy

Trump Under Unprecedented Fire From Republican Allies

"Bizarre", "shameful", "disgraceful", that is the swift and sweeping condemnation directed at US President Donald Trump on Monday after he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the stunning appearance in Helsinki—and that is just from the Republicans.
Trump's "America First" slogan morphed into "Me First" as the US president unloaded on the intelligence community and Justice Department to portray himself as the victim of a conspiracy to deny him legitimacy. Trump also blamed American "foolishness and stupidity" for the poor state of US-Russia relations, returning to themes he has repeated at political rallies around the United States.
This time, though, he was on foreign soil, standing next to Putin, the very man whose government is accused of interfering in the 2016 election to favor Trump. As such, his extraordinary performance on Monday fueled criticism of his presidency from both the right and left. And it will likely embolden Putin, who faced no pushback from Trump over the election allegations or a long list of other Kremlin actions, ranging from Syria to Ukraine, AP reported.
Lawmakers in both major parties and former intelligence officials appeared shocked, dismayed and uneasy with Trump's suggestion that he believes Putin's denial of interfering in the 2016 elections.
It was a remarkable break with US intelligence officials and the Justice Department. And just as alarming for some, Trump also put the two countries on the same footing when casting blame for their strained relations.
>Utterly Disgraceful
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called it "bizarre". Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called it "shameful". And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that it was a "bad day for the US."
"This was a very good day for President Putin," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He said Trump's refusal to condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election makes the US "look like a pushover."
Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said he has seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people in his earlier career as a CIA officer. But, he tweeted, "I never would have thought that the US President would become one of the ones getting played by old KGB hands."
House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in to say there is "no question" that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and "no moral equivalence" between the US and Russia.
"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. Russia, he said, "remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals."
Much of the Republican rebuke came from lawmakers who have been willing to openly criticize the president, a group that remains a minority in the GOP.
Many top Republicans remained on the sidelines after the Justice Department on Friday indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for election-related hacking.
But several Republicans who do not typically buck the president raised concerns, shocked by Monday's performance.
Trump ally Newt Gingrich called it "the most serious mistake" of Trump's presidency—and one that "must be corrected immediately."

>Rein in the President
Democrats pleaded with their GOP colleagues who have majority control of the US Congress to rein in the president and become a stronger legislative check on the executive branch.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, says never in the history of the country has an American president supported an adversary the way Trump sided with Putin. He challenged Republicans to move beyond words and confront the president directly by increasing sanctions on Russia and requesting testimony about the summit from Trump administration officials, among other things.
"We need our Republican colleagues to stand up for the good of this country," he said.
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump's weakness in front of Putin was not just "embarrassing" but also "proves that the Russians have something on the President, personally, financially or politically."
Republicans have been hesitant to fully confront a president who remains popular among GOP voters back home. But Trump's hold on the GOP is being put to the test by his willingness to align with Putin, a leader whom Republicans routinely describe as an enemy of the United States.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., repeated his earlier assessment that the Russians are "not our friends." He said he has "complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings."
The second-ranking Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said Trump has a "delicate task" in dealing with Putin, but added that he supports the intelligence community's assessment of election meddling.

>Igniting Firestorm
Monday's firestorm erupted when Trump, standing side by side with Putin in Helsinki, refused to say he believed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, or to publicly condemn it. Instead, he directed his ire at Democrats and US officials, calling special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russia a "disaster".
Asked if there was anything he thinks Russia should take responsibility for, Trump said, "We're all to blame."
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said she is "deeply troubled" by Trump's defense of Putin against US intelligence agencies "and his suggestion of moral equivalence" between the two countries.
Even Graham, a sometime Trump ally, 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."
While some GOP lawmakers were less strident in their criticism of Trump, their discomfort was clear.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he was "dismayed" by Trump's stance. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called it "unacceptable".

> Off Capitol Hill
Off Capitol Hill, former intelligence chiefs who served under president Barack Obama were scathing in their criticism. John Brennan, who served as CIA director, called Trump'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, described Trump's comments as "very, very disturbing."
"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.
James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump, tweeted, "This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country."

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