GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki

GOP lambasts Trump over performance in Helsinki
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE’s refusal to denounce Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election sparked a backlash Monday from Republican lawmakers, including prominent voices on national security and foreign policy.

The sharpest criticism came from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech MORE (R-Ariz.), who blasted Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

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The 81-year-old senator, a frequent critic of Trump but one who has often expressed confidence in the president’s national security team, said he found it “painful and inexplicable” how his advisers could allow such “blunders and capitulations.”

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” he fumed in a statement.

Other GOP lawmakers — even some of Trump’s staunchest allies on Capitol Hill, like Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times The 10 GOP senators who may break with Trump on emergency Dems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters MORE (N.C.) and Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchThe FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate Orrin Hatch Foundation seeking million in taxpayer money to fund new center in his honor Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab MORE (Utah) — were critical of the outcome of the Helsinki summit, where Putin denied that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrCohen to testify before Senate Intel on Tuesday Harris on election security: 'Russia can't hack a piece of paper' Schiff: Evidence of collusion between Trump campaign, Russia 'pretty compelling' MORE (R-N.C.) pushed back on Trump giving credence to those denials.

Burr said his panel “found no reason to doubt” U.S. intelligence findings that “Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. elections with the goal of undermining faith in our democratic process.”

He said Russia had conducted a “coordinated cyberattack” on state election systems and “hacked critical infrastructure.”

Putin “is not our friend,” Burr said, and he urged Trump not to “tolerate hostile Russian activities against us or our allies.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill have generally been leery to criticize Trump publicly or to risk getting into personal spats with him. But even GOP leaders scrambled to distance themselves from the president’s remarks in Helsinki.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE (R-Ky.), who has at times pushed back on Trump drawing moral equivalence between U.S. and Russian policy, warned that Russia should not be trusted.

“I have said a number of times, I’ll say it again: The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell told reporters. “And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (R-Wis.) warned that Russia “remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” he said. “The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

The comments by GOP leaders echoed broad criticism from analysts and pundits at news outlets ranging from CNN and NBC to Fox News.

Bret Baier of Fox News called the press conference “surreal,” while his network colleague Brit Hume called Trump’s reference to the probe into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report MORE’s private email server to deflect questions about Russian interference a “lame response, to say the least.”

U.S. Senate candidate and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGOP lawmaker comes out against Trump's emergency declaration Warren's national child care proposal has an ObamaCare problem Dem strategist says former GOP spokeswoman will be 'an asset' to CNN MORE also weighed in with his own criticism.

“President Trump’s decision to side with Putin over American intelligence agencies is disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles,” Romney said in a tweet. “Russia remains our number one geopolitical adversary; claiming a moral equivalence between the United States and Russia not only defies reason and history, it undermines our national integrity and impairs our global credibility.”

GOP lawmakers had publicly urged Trump ahead of the meeting to warn Putin not to interfere again in American elections. Instead, the president declined to criticize Russia even when asked pointedly to do so during a 45-minute joint press conference.

Trump even sided with Russia over his own intelligence agencies’ conclusion about Russia’s meddling in the election.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump told reporters in Helsinki.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) pronounced himself “disappointed” and “saddened” by what he saw as Trump’s soft response to Russian interference in the U.S. election and its aggressive tactics in Ukraine and the Middle East.

“The president should have been more forceful in talking about those grievances,” said Corker, who’s not seeking reelection this year. “Putin only understands strength and I did not think this was a good moment for our country.”

GOP lawmakers mostly kept under wraps any misgivings they felt about Trump giving equal footing to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a summit in Singapore last month, which gave Kim significant concessions.

But they made their unhappiness with Trump’s Russia dealings plain on Monday.

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Push for cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill | Court lets Dems defend ObamaCare | Flu season not as severe as last year, CDC says Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears MORE (R-Neb.) panned Trump’s attempt to spread the blame for poor U.S.-Russian relations as “bizarre and flat-out wrong.”

“America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression,” he warned. “When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

Corker said that while he shares Trump’s desire to have good relations with Russia, he felt the president’s remarks after meeting with Putin “made us look as a nation more like a pushover and I was disappointed in that.”

Former Republican Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelFormer US Defense secretary: 'American global leadership now is really nowhere' Meet Trump’s pick to take over for Mattis at Pentagon Juan Williams: Trump is AWOL on our troops MORE (Neb.), who served as secretary of Defense under President Obama, said Trump “failed America, our interests today, in every way.”

Republicans have long held an advantage over Democrats on the issue of national security, but Trump’s conciliatory stance toward Putin could erode the president’s credibility on the issue.

Democratic leaders pounced on Monday in hopes of tying the GOP broadly to Trump as soft on Russia.

“What, if anything, will Congress do in response to this awful trip?” Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (N.Y.) told reporters at a press conference. “Where are our Republican colleagues ... who know in their heart that the president is giving away the store to Vladimir Putin?”

Trump’s chummy appearance with Putin also drew criticism from House Republicans like Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceLawmakers propose banning shark fin trade Bottom Line Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch MORE (R-Calif.).

“There is simply no comparing the actions of the United States and Vladimir Putin,” he said in a statement, citing Putin’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Royce argued those aggressive actions by Moscow were to blame for what he called a “low point” in U.S.-Russian relations, not what Trump in a tweet earlier Monday called “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity.”

Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikGOP announces members who will serve on House intel panel Bipartisan House group introduces bills to stall Syria, South Korea troop withdrawals House votes on 10th bill to reopen government MORE (N.Y.), a Republican on the House Armed Services and Intelligence panels, said she also disagreed with the president and called Russia an “adversary.”

“We must continue to work with our allies to counter Russia’s influence around the world,” she urged.

Jordain Carney contributed.