GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki

GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpBrennan fires new shot at Trump: ‘He’s drunk on power’ Trump aides discussed using security clearance revocations to distract from negative stories: report Trump tried to dissuade Melania from 'Be Best' anti-bullying campaign: report MORE’s refusal to denounce Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election sparked a backlash Monday from Republican lawmakers, including prominent voices on national security and foreign policy.

The sharpest criticism came from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Rand Paul’s Russia visit displays advancement of peace through diplomacy MORE (R-Ariz.), who blasted Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

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The 81-year-old senator, a frequent critic of Trump but one who has often expressed confidence in the president’s national security team, said he found it “painful and inexplicable” how his advisers could allow such “blunders and capitulations.”

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” he fumed in a statement.

Other GOP lawmakers — even some of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, like Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up GOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Orrin Hatch: Partisanship over Kavanaugh nomination 'dumbass' MORE (N.C.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSentencing reform deal heats up, pitting Trump against reliable allies Dem lawmaker calls Trump racist in response to 'dog' comment PETA calls out Trump for attacking Omarosa as a 'dog' MORE (Utah) — were critical of the outcome of the Helsinki summit, where Putin denied that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrWhite House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding Conway blasts Brennan: 'Why is he screaming' about losing his clearance 'on a lower-rated cable network?' The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE (R-N.C.) pushed back on Trump giving credence to those denials.

Burr said his panel “found no reason to doubt” U.S. intelligence findings that “Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. elections with the goal of undermining faith in our democratic process.”

He said Russia had conducted a “coordinated cyberattack” on state election systems and “hacked critical infrastructure.”

Putin “is not our friend,” Burr said, and he urged Trump not to “tolerate hostile Russian activities against us or our allies.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill have generally been leery to criticize Trump publicly or to risk getting into personal spats with him. But even GOP leaders scrambled to distance themselves from the president’s remarks in Helsinki.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances The Hill's 12:30 Report Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Ky.), who has at times pushed back on Trump drawing moral equivalence between U.S. and Russian policy, warned that Russia should not be trusted.

“I have said a number of times, I’ll say it again: The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell told reporters. “And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNew Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders House Dem: Party's aging leaders is 'a problem' Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Wis.) warned that Russia “remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” he said. “The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

The comments by GOP leaders echoed broad criticism from analysts and pundits at news outlets ranging from CNN and NBC to Fox News.

Bret Baier of Fox News called the press conference “surreal,” while his network colleague Brit Hume called Trump’s reference to the probe into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMueller recommends Papadopoulos be sentenced to up to 6 months in prison Poll: Dem opponent leads Scott Walker by 5 points Cuomo fires back at Trump: 'America is great because it rejects your hate-filled agenda' MORE’s private email server to deflect questions about Russian interference a “lame response, to say the least.”

U.S. Senate candidate and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDem lawmaker calls Trump racist in response to 'dog' comment Former spokeswoman defends Trump calling Omarosa ‘dog’: He’s called men dogs Cook Political Report moves 4 GOP seats to 'toss-up' category MORE also weighed in with his own criticism.

“President Trump’s decision to side with Putin over American intelligence agencies is disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles,” Romney said in a tweet. “Russia remains our number one geopolitical adversary; claiming a moral equivalence between the United States and Russia not only defies reason and history, it undermines our national integrity and impairs our global credibility.”

GOP lawmakers had publicly urged Trump ahead of the meeting to warn Putin not to interfere again in American elections. Instead, the president declined to criticize Russia even when asked pointedly to do so during a 45-minute joint press conference.

Trump even sided with Russia over his own intelligence agencies’ conclusion about Russia’s meddling in the election.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump told reporters in Helsinki.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (R-Tenn.) pronounced himself “disappointed” and “saddened” by what he saw as Trump’s soft response to Russian interference in the U.S. election and its aggressive tactics in Ukraine and the Middle East.

“The president should have been more forceful in talking about those grievances,” said Corker, who’s not seeking reelection this year. “Putin only understands strength and I did not think this was a good moment for our country.”

GOP lawmakers mostly kept under wraps any misgivings they felt about Trump giving equal footing to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a summit in Singapore last month, which gave Kim significant concessions.

But they made their unhappiness with Trump’s Russia dealings plain on Monday.

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SassePollster: Attitudes toward Trump's farm aid are 'highly wrapped up' in feelings toward president Poll: Majority of Americans support Trump's plan to offer aid to farmers hit by tariffs Hillicon Valley: 'QAnon' conspiracy theory jumps to primetime | Senate Intel broadens look into social media manipulation | Senate rejects push for more election security funds | Reddit reveals hack MORE (R-Neb.) panned Trump’s attempt to spread the blame for poor U.S.-Russian relations as “bizarre and flat-out wrong.”

“America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression,” he warned. “When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

Corker said that while he shares Trump’s desire to have good relations with Russia, he felt the president’s remarks after meeting with Putin “made us look as a nation more like a pushover and I was disappointed in that.”

Former Republican Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelTrump’s bogus use of cyber threats to prop up coal GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki Overnight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal MORE (Neb.), who served as secretary of Defense under President Obama, said Trump “failed America, our interests today, in every way.”

Republicans have long held an advantage over Democrats on the issue of national security, but Trump’s conciliatory stance toward Putin could erode the president’s credibility on the issue.

Democratic leaders pounced on Monday in hopes of tying the GOP broadly to Trump as soft on Russia.

“What, if anything, will Congress do in response to this awful trip?” Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTo make the House of Representatives work again, make it bigger Reforms can stop members of Congress from using their public office for private gain Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' MORE (N.Y.) told reporters at a press conference. “Where are our Republican colleagues ... who know in their heart that the president is giving away the store to Vladimir Putin?”

Trump’s chummy appearance with Putin also drew criticism from House Republicans like Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceSteyer group launching 0,000 digital ad campaign targeting millennials It’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy Dems seek GOP wipeout in California MORE (R-Calif.).

“There is simply no comparing the actions of the United States and Vladimir Putin,” he said in a statement, citing Putin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Royce argued those aggressive actions by Moscow were to blame for what he called a “low point” in U.S.-Russian relations, not what Trump in a tweet earlier Monday called “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity.”

Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s GOP feuds dominate ahead of midterms Trump signs 7B annual defense policy bill into law The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts MORE (N.Y.), a Republican on the House Armed Services and Intelligence panels, said she also disagreed with the president and called Russia an “adversary.”

“We must continue to work with our allies to counter Russia’s influence around the world,” she urged.

Jordain Carney contributed.