Casey, Toomey react strongly to Trump believing Putin over U.S. intelligence on election meddling
President Donald Trump’s statement Monday indicating that he believed the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies on meddling in the 2016 elections drew strong reactions from Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey called Trump’s conduct “dangerous and reckless,” while U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey called for “tough new sanctions on Russia.”
During a news conference featuring Trump and Putin after their face-to-face summit Monday in Helsinki, the U.S. president was asked if he believed the Russian president or U.S. intelligence agencies on whether Russia meddled in U.S. elections.
“President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump continued to say that he has “great confidence” in his intelligence staff but that Putin was “extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Casey, D-Scranton, said that Trump attacked and diminished law enforcement and intelligence agencies during the news conference and did so on foreign soil and in front of a “hostile dictator.”
“The president told the world today that he believes the word of Vladimir Putin over the findings of his country’s own intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” Casey said in a statement. “Instead of holding Vladimir Putin accountable in Helsinki, President Trump embraced him and in doing so diminished America’s standing in the international community and shamed the office of the presidency.”
Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, didn’t mention Trump by name in his statement but instead attacked Putin. The senator said that American intelligence agencies confirmed that Russians meddled in the 2016 elections and that it was almost certainly at the direction of the Russian government and Putin.
“It’s clear that Putin is a bad actor and should be treated as an international pariah,” Toomey said in the statement. “Putin insists that the Russian government has nothing to do with meddling in our elections. In that case, he should not object to the hackers recently indicted being brought to justice. Absent his cooperation in achieving that justice, the United States should impose tough new sanctions on Russia.”
On Friday, the Department of Justice indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers on charges that they hacked Democratic email accounts during the 2016 election.
Congressmen from Western Pennsylvania on both sides of the aisles also reacted. U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, said in a statement that the House Committee on Intelligence confirmed that Russia meddled in the election. He also did not mention the U.S. president by name.
“There should be no ambiguity about the fact that Russia is a hostile nation that interfered in our election and that it continues to target our democratic allies around the world,” Rothfus said. “We should be prepared to stand up to Russia’s efforts to harm our country and undermine its institutions.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, said Trump’s behavior was “outrageous.” Doyle, in a statement, noted several things he thought Trump should have done during the summit, like pressed Putin about his support for the Syria regime, give up Crimea and insisted that Putin stop killing journalists, critics and political opponents.
“Donald Trump advanced Russia’s international agenda today, not our country’s. He disgraced the United States and betrayed the values our country holds dear – democracy, human rights, and a government of laws, not money and power. His behavior was nothing short of shocking and shameful,” Doyle said in the statement.
Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Aaron at 412-336-8448, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tinynotebook.