Trump says Washington Post should apologize to McConnell over 'Russian asset' column

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFacebook releases audit on conservative bias claims Harry Reid: 'Decriminalizing border crossings is not something that should be at the top of the list' Recessions happen when presidents overlook key problems MORE on Tuesday said The Washington Post should apologize to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi, Schumer press for gun screenings as Trump inches away The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent hacking First House Republican backs bill banning assault weapons MORE (R-Ky.) after it published an opinion piece titled "Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset" that criticized the senator's opposition to election security legislation.

"I think The Washington Post is a Russian asset by comparison," Trump told reporters as he left the White House for a trip to Virginia. 

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"Mitch McConnell loves our country. He's done a great job," Trump added, noting that he did not read the piece. "If they actually said that, that Mitch McConnell is an asset of Russia, they ought to be ashamed of themselves, and they ought to apologize."

In an attempt to distance McConnell from the headline, the president asserted that the majority leader "is a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence than even Donald Trump, and I know nothing."

Trump also praised McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2020, for his work getting conservative judges confirmed in the Senate.

The column, penned by Dana Milbank, slammed McConnell for blocking Democratic-backed election security bills that would strengthen protections against foreign attacks on U.S. elections.

McConnell has come under furious criticism over the issue, which he responded to Monday with a fiery speech on the Senate floor. He compared the attacks against him to “modern-day McCarthyism.”

"I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies. I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Can we do business with Kim Jong Un? Leadership analysis might give clues Russian defense minister: 'We won't do anything' in Europe unless US places missiles there MORE,” McConnell said.

The issue gained renewed urgency last week following testimony from former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE, who warned of ongoing efforts by foreign entities to meddle in U.S. elections.

The Senate has passed two election-related bills this year but the GOP-controlled chamber has not brought up sweeping legislation offered by House Democrats. Republicans and White House officials have argued they've acted sufficiently to address election security concerns.