It came as no surprise that Connecticut’s all-Democratic Congressional delegation criticized President Donald Trump for his refusal to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin over interference in the 2016 elections.
What did come as a surprise is that Trump’s conduct is getting its share of criticism from Republicans — both nationally and in Connecticut.
Dominic Rapini, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate to take on U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy in November, said Tuesday that Trump could have done better.
“Donald Trump has a unique negotiating style that is non-confrontational and we’ve seen that style work in negotiations with North Korea,” Rapini said. “But, in this case, I thought he needed to back up his own intelligence agencies’ determination that there was meddling in the election.”
“He should have said to Putin: ‘Can you explain this’?” Rapini said.
Matthew Corey, the endorsed Republican also vying for a chance to run against Murphy in November, wasn’t as critical of Trump.
“Nobody knows what went on in the back room during negotiations,” Corey said, who added it wouldn’t have been proper for Trump “to throw Putin under the bus” in the middle of a news conference.
“This administration has been much tougher on Russia than prior administrations,” Corey added.
That sentiment was out of step with what other Republicans were saying Tuesday. Some Republicans were hyper critical of Trump.
Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, tweeted: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said there is no question that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
“That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community, but also the House Committee on Intelligence,” Ryan said. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also gave his support to the U.S. intelligence community.
“I’ve said a number of times and I say it again, the Russians are not our friends and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community,” the Kentucky Republican said.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who has consistently criticized the President, said Trump’s comments were “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Trump fought back Tuesday. He claimed he had a great meeting with Putin and lashed out at the news coverage that captured the widespread dismay that resulting from his news conference with the Russian president.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia. Sadly, it is not being reported that way — the Fake News is going Crazy,” the president tweeted.
Trump defended himself immediately following the summit, too.
“As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past — as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” he tweeted.
Connecticut’s Democratic delegation was much harsher in its criticism of Trump’s statements.
Leading the charge was U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who also is listed as a possible Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.
In a Senate floor speech Monday, Murphy criticized Trump for his unwillingness to condemn President Putin and for undermining his own U.S. intelligence agencies following Friday’s indictment of 12 Russian government officials on charges that they orchestrated attacks on the 2016 U.S. election.
“To the shock and horror of the American public, President Trump stood on stage with Vladimir Putin and told the world that he believes Putin when Putin insists that Russia did not try to interfere in the American elections in Trump’s favor in 2016,” Murphy said.
“In my lifetime, no American president has ever had a more disastrous overseas trip than the one that was just concluded by President Trump,” Murphy added.
The trip was “five days of disaster after disaster, insult after insult, capitulation after capitulation, and now today Donald Trump has made America weaker in the world than at any time in recent memory,” Murphy said.
“When asked whether the president of the United States believed his own government or Russia, our president said he believed Russia,” Murphy continued. “That is America in the world today and I couldn’t be sadder about it.”
Murphy certainly wasn’t alone in his criticism of Trump.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called the European summit “a gift to Vladimir Putin.”
“His (Trump’s) comments today were deeply embarrassing and desperately weak,” Blumenthal added. “President Trump effectively failed to defend the United States — in violation of his oath of office — by refusing to hold Russia accountable.”
Blumenthal added: “Trump’s apparent acceptance of Putin’s false denial of the detailed, stunning criminal charges in the Special Counsel’s indictments constitutes a betrayal of our national security.
“When the president says Putin’s denial of culpability was ‘incredibly strong and powerful,’ he trusts a KGB thug over our own intelligence community and law enforcers,” Blumenthal added. “Putin must turn over Russian spies named in the indictments for trial in the United States.”
Criticism of Trump was also loud on the House side of Connecticut’s delegation — again all Democrats.
“President Trump’s joint press conference with autocrat Vladimir Putin set a new foreign policy low — even for his shameful presidency,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro said. “It is outrageous that he would publicly take Putin’s side over our nation’s intelligence agencies — especially so soon after Special Counsel Mueller’s latest indictments that provided further evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”
U.S. Rep. John B. Larson added: “Our elections are sacred and they are what makes us a democracy, to not stand up for them is wrong. As the Mueller investigation indictments continue to pile up, whether President Trump colluded or not, it is evident that Russians have tampered with our electoral process.”
And U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty noted that Trump’s remarks followed other comments in which he sowed new doubts about his support for NATO and berated European allies for treating the United States unfairly on trade.
“It is even more disturbing that this press conference took place in the same week that President Trump made deeply destructive comments that denigrated some of our closest allies and weakened our critical alliances,” Esty said.
She said the partisan divide was put to the test by Trump’s comments at the summit.
And in Connecticut, Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill reminded lawmakers that there remains a continued threat of attacks on U.S. election databases. Merrill said she was informed by leadership at the Department of Homeland Security that the “threat of further Russian attacks on our election infrastructure was ongoing and very real.”
Connecticut was one of the states the Russian tried to hack in 2016.
“There is no longer any doubt that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, including an unsuccessful attempt to directly tamper with Connecticut’s servers, and will continue to attack our elections,” Merrill said.
She said the president’s actions will make America less safe.