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Trump defends congratulating Putin on election victory

Trump defends congratulating Putin on election victory
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE on Wednesday stood by his decision to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection.

Trump noted that President Obama also called to congratulate Putin after his 2012 election victory and said it is a “good thing” for the U.S. to have warm relations with Russia.

Trump called Putin on Tuesday and congratulated him on winning a fourth term. The leaders also discussed a potential face-to-face meeting in the future.

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The president has faced criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for the call. Election observers and Putin's political opponents have issued charges of widespread fraud in the election.

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms Comey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate MORE (R-Ariz.) called Trump's congratulations an insult to the Russian people and said that “an American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials ratchet up fight over drug pricing | McConnell says Republicans could try again on ObamaCare repeal | Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel MORE (R-Ky.) noted “the lack of credibility in tallying the results” in the election, in which Putin won 77 percent of the vote.

One of Putin’s biggest critics, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running due to a criminal conviction that many believe to have been politically motivated.

International election-watchers said that the contest was tainted by ballot-stuffing and other irregularities.

The president was also criticized for failing to challenge Putin on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election or over the Kremlin's alleged involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Britain.

Last week, the Treasury Department slapped new sanctions on two-dozen Russian individuals or entities for meddling in the 2016 election.

The U.S. and its allies have blamed Moscow for a brazen chemical attack against a former Russian agent and his daughter in southern England.

There have been media reports that Trump' s national security advisers urged him not to congratulate Putin on the call.

The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that a section of Trump’s briefing materials for his call with Putin read “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in all-capital letters.

The White House has expressed alarm over the leak to the Post, with a senior administration official calling it a "fireable offense and likely illegal."