Trump congratulated Putin after his national security team told him not to: report
President Trump congratulated his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on his reelection victory despite his national security advisers warning him specifically not to do so, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Trump’s national security team had told Trump not to congratulate Putin on winning a fourth term during a phone call on Tuesday, even placing a section in his briefing materials that read “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in all-capital letters, according to the Post.
However, Trump did congratulate Putin during the call.
Trump also did not follow aides’ instructions that he condemn Putin over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K., according to the Post.
The U.K. and the U.S. are among the countries that have said Russia is responsible for the attack. Russia has denied the allegations.
The report comes as Trump faces intense criticism for congratulating Putin.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was among those that slammed the move, saying that “an American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s comments on Tuesday.
She said the U.S. doesn’t “get to dictate how other countries operate” after a reporter questioned whether Russia’s election was “free and fair.”
American presidents have regularly called on other nations to hold free and democratic elections, including the Trump administration. Trump has targeted countries such as Venezuela and Cambodia over its elections.
International groups have slammed Russia’s elections, claiming that there were instances of ballot-box stuffing and that poll watchers were blocked from carrying out their duties.
“Restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition,” the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe wrote in a report on the Russian election.
Trump talked to reporters about the call with Putin, saying it was “very good.”
“I suspect that we’ll probably be meeting in the not too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control,” Trump said. “But we will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have.”
Updated at 7:58 p.m.