Dem senator: Even Trump's appointees say Russia is still targeting US

Dem senator: Even Trump's appointees say Russia is still targeting US
© Anna Moneymaker

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times MORE (D-N.J.) ripped President TrumpDonald John TrumpHow to stand out in the crowd: Kirsten Gillibrand needs to find her niche Countdown clock is on for Mueller conclusions Omar: White supremacist attacks are rising because Trump publicly says 'Islam hates us' MORE on Wednesday for saying Russia is no longer targeting the United States, noting that the remarks contradict recent statements by U.S. intelligence officials appointed by Trump.

“Every one of our intelligence agencies, those who are led by appointees of President Trump, have said not only has Russia engaged actively in trying to undermine the elections of 2016 against Secretary Clinton and for now-President Trump, and that are they continuing to do so,” Menendez said on MSNBC.

He cited recent comments by Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsOvernight Defense: Pentagon lists construction projects at risk from emergency declaration | Officials deny report on leaving 1,000 troops in Syria | Spy budget request nears B Trump administration requests nearly B for spy budget Dems request probe into spa owner suspected of trying to sell access to Trump MORE, who said last week that “the warning lights are blinking red again” for possible Russian cyberattacks against the U.S.

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“It is appalling that the president cannot seem to stand up to Vladimir Putin,” Menendez added, referring to the Russian president. “And that really means that there’s gotta be something more that we don’t see because it would even be in his political interest to stand up to him, not only the national interest and security of the United States. Yet he fails to do so.”

The president replied “no” when asked Wednesday if Russia still poses a threat to the U.S., contradicting Coats’s statement this week that Moscow's efforts are “ongoing” and “pervasive.”

Trump also told reporters that "there has never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been."

Trump has faced intense scrutiny this week after appearing to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russia's election interference at a joint press conference Monday in Helsinki. He then attempted to walk back the comments, saying he misspoke.

“I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said Tuesday.

"Could be other people also," he added. "A lot of people out there."