President Trump raised eyebrows Tuesday when he boasted to reporters that he called Russian dictator Vladimir Putin on the phone to congratulate him on his ‘victory’ in Sunday’s presidential election.
The move drew immediate rebukes from across the political spectrum, most notably from fellow Republican, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who tweeted in part that, “an American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.”
Many observers have wondered how the president’s advisors could have allowed him to make such a critical blunder at such sensitive time. Turns out, they didn’t. The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that:
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“President Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers when he congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday on his reelection, including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE,’ according to officials familiar with the call.”
“It was not clear whether Trump read the notes,” The Post reported continued, citing administration officials familiar with the briefing materials. They did confirm that President Trump was the one who initiated the phone call, and that he began the conversation by expressing congratulations for his Russian counterpart, another person familiar with the conversation told The Post.
Trump’s relationship with Putin has been under intense scrutiny ever since the campaign. That scrutiny only increased when candidate Trump openly questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had hacked the DNC and worked with Wikileaks to release them to the public.
Since taking office, journalist, congress, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have uncovered even more alarming connections between Trump and Putin.
Trump, for his part, has done little to ease suspicions. 14 months into his presidency and he continues to refuse to criticize or condemn Putin and the Kremlin on any number of issues, including Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Over the past couple of weeks, however, the president’s continued bromance with the Russian strong man has become a national security liability.
The United Kingdom, perhaps our most important ally, is in the middle of a serious diplomatic crisis with the Kremlin after a former Russian double agent and his daughter were attacked at their home in England and nearly killed by a powerful nerve toxin traced back to Russia.
Even without the sensitive situation involving a key ally, congratulating a dictator for winning an election – one that barred any serious opposition candidate from participating and where the result was never in doubt – goes against everything for which the United States is supposed to stand.
Later in his strongly worded statement, Senator McCain accused President Trump of insulting, “every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
Our petulant president, however, just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to give his critics the middle finger, foreign policy or democratic principles be damned.