WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a senior Republican and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Monday said President Donald Trump’s performance at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin will send Moscow a message of U.S. “weakness.”
Graham, in a Twitter post, said: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections. This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves.”
Republican Trump, standing alongside Putin after their summit in Helsinki, said he saw no reason to believe Russia had hacked the 2016 U.S. election to help him win and that Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” On Friday, a U.S. special counsel announced indictments of 12 Russian spies on charges of hacking Democratic Party computer networks as part of election interference.
Another Republican senator, Jeff Flake, on Twitter called Trump’s words “shameful.”
“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful,” Flake wrote.
Trump also said that he holds both the United States and Russia responsible for years of strained relations, which he said he is now trying to improve. Washington imposed sanctions on Moscow after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine as well as for cyber attacks on the American electoral process.
Reporting By Richard Cowan and Amanda; Becker; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool