Grassley on Trump calling Putin: 'I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal'

Grassley on Trump calling Putin: 'I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal'
© Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate sworn in as jurors for Trump impeachment trial GOP digs in on preserving Trump tax cuts On The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes MORE (R-Iowa) says he wouldn’t have called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his reelection, referring to the Russian leader as a “criminal.”

Grassley’s comments to reporters on Wednesday were a pointed reproof in response to President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE’s call to Putin the previous day, which sparked backlash after Trump declined to press Putin on the fairness of Russia's election and the poisoning of a former Russian double agent living in England.

“I think Putin is a criminal. What he did in Georgia, what he did in Ukraine, what he did in Baltic, what he’s done in London poisoning people with active nerve gas, that’s a criminal act. I wouldn’t have a conversation with a criminal,” Grassley said when asked about Trump's call.


Trump in his conversation with Putin also did not raise concerns about allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election but did congratulate Putin for winning another six-year term over the weekend.

Before the call, The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Trump’s national security advisers warned him in briefing materials in all-capital letters, “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.”

Trump has faced criticism for not addressing the nerve-gas poisoning of a former Russian spy living in England after British officials concluded last week that Russia was behind the attack.

Lawmakers have also continued to criticize Putin over the annexation of Crimea, a province of Ukraine, in 2014.

Grassley’s comments Wednesday are some of the strongest among Republicans on Capitol Hill in the wake of Trump's call with the Russian leader.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOn The Money: GOP digs in on defending Trump tax cuts | Democrats bullish on raising minimum wage | Financial sector braces for Biden's consumer bureau pick No. 2 Senate Democrat says minimum wage can be increased with simple majority vote State-level Republicans wracked by division after Trump's loss MORE (R-Ariz.) also came down hard on Trump.

“An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHumanist Report host criticizes 'conservative Democrats:' They 'hold more power' than progressives Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said Putin’s reelection was a sham.

“When I look at a Russian election, what I see is a lack of credibility in tallying the results. I’m always reminded of the elections they used to have in almost every communist country where whoever the dictator was at the moment always got huge percentages of the vote,” he said.

“So calling him wouldn’t have been high on my list,” McConnell added of Putin.

Yet the GOP leader also said, “The president can call whomever he chooses.”