A high profile Republican senator says that Donald Trump is empowering Russian President Vladimir Putin by not pushing the Russian president for his government’s involvement in hacking the 2016 US election.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called for further sanctions on the Russian government, and said that Mr Trump is the only person he knows of in Washington who denies Russia’s 2016 meddling.
“The more you do this, the more people are suspicious about you and Russia,” Mr Graham said on Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press. “When it comes to Russia, he's got a blind spot. And to forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyber attacks is to empower Putin, and that's exactly what he's doing.”
Mr Graham said that, overall, he's pretty happy with the President’s performance. On issues like the war in Afghanistan, North Korea’s nuclear threat, and others, Mr Graham said Mr Trump is on the right track. But, his posturing on Russia could hurt his presidency, he said.
“When it comes to Russia, I am dumbfounded. I am disappointed,” he said. “And, at the end of the day he’s hurting his presidency by not embracing the fact that Putin’s a bad guy who tried to undercut our democracy and he’s doing it all over the world.”
Mr Trump met with Mr Putin for the first time last week during a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The two were initially slated to have a relatively brief meeting on the sidelines of that summit, but the two ended up speaking for over two hours.
During that meeting, Mr Trump brought up the issue but Mr Putin denied the allegations, asking for proof.
“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it,” Mr Trump later tweeted.
US intelligence services determined last year that the Russian government had actively meddled in the 2016 US election, and sanctions were put in place to punish the Kremlin for those actions. Mr Trump has so far left those sanctions in his half a year of being President.
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