Senate Dems tell Trump: Don’t meet with Putin one-on-one
A group of top Senate Democrats is urging President Trump to not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin one-on-one as the pair prepare to head to Helsinki for a summit on Monday.
Eight Senate Democrats including Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and the top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Armed Services, Appropriations and Banking committees sent a letter to Trump on Saturday making the demand.
“If you insist on meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, we write to urge that you include senior members of your team and not meet one-on-one with Mr. Putin, as reportedly planned,” the group of senators wrote.
“Mr. Putin is a trained KGB intelligence veteran who will come to this meeting well-prepared. As the Kremlin said last week, a one-one-one meeting with you ‘absolutely suits’ him. There must be other Americans in the room,” they wrote, urging Trump to “rely on the expertise and the experts of the State Department, Defense Department, CIA and other U.S. government agencies” and “not wing it on your own.”
The group also called on Trump to address Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election on the heels of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officers who are accused of being behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.
“If you are not prepared to make Russia’s attack on our election the top issue you will discuss, then you should cancel the Helsinki summit,” the senators wrote to Trump, adding that he “should demand” that Putin hand over the indicted Russians and 13 other Russian nationals previously indicted in February for running a “troll factory” during the election.
“These individuals must be brought to the United States so that they can stand trial, and you should demand that Mr. Putin hand them over,” they wrote.
The letter was signed by Schumer, Durbin, Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.), Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Banking Committee ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Trump is slated to travel to Helsinki to meet with Putin on Monday after traveling this week to Brussels for the annual NATO summit and the United Kingdom for a visit.
Trump and Putin are slated to hold a joint press conference on Monday after their meeting, the Finnish government said.
The White House said last month when announcing Trump’s summit with Putin that the U.S. president would meet his Russian counterpart in an effort to improve relations between the two countries. Trump has also dismissed concerns that he will be unprepared for the meeting.
“They’re going ‘Will President Trump be prepared, you know, President Putin is KGB and this and that,’ ” Trump said during a campaign rally in Montana earlier this month. “You know what? Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We’re all fine. We’re people. Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I’ve been preparing for this stuff my whole life.”
Still, a number of lawmakers, including GOP Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), have pressed Trump to address Russia’s election meddling during the bilateral summit.
“President Trump must be willing to confront Putin from a position of strength and demonstrate that there will be a serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world. If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward,” McCain said in a statement Friday.