Top Republicans have rejected the US president's "moral equivalency" with regards to Russian meddling in the US 2016 election. House Speaker Paul Ryan reminded Trump that Russia was "no ally" of the US.
Republican party leaders denounced President Donald Trump's press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, saying Trump's message conveyed "weakness," was a "missed opportunity" and made the US "look like a pushover." Democrats questioned why the US president would "put the interests of Russia above those of the US."
Trump said in the press conference that he had "no reason to believe" that Russia had interfered with the US election, emphasizing that Putin "was extremely strong and powerful in his denial."
Top Republican Senator John McCain called Trump's summit in Helsinki a "tragic mistake," lamenting that the US president was "unable" to stand up to Putin.
"Coming close on the heels of President Trump's bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today's press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency," McCain's statement read.
"No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant," McCain said, in a scathing review of Trump's joint appearance with Putin.
Corker: US 'a pushover'
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, said in a statement that Trump "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," Ryan said. "The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, told reporters that the Helsinki press conference was "not a good moment" for the US. Corker reaffirmed the findings in the US Senate investigations that pointed to Russian involvement in the 2016 US election.
"When he had the opportunity to defend our intelligence agencies who work for him, I was very disappointed and saddened with the equivalency that he gave between them and what Putin was saying," Corker said of Trump.
Read more: What Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin should agree on in Helsinki
Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a series of tweets that the meeting in Helsinki was a "missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections."
Adding that his answers to questions of election meddling send a message of weakness and create more problems than it solves.
In reference to a World Cup soccer ball that Putin gifted Trump in the middle of the presser, Graham said that if it were him, he would "check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House."
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona blasted Trump on Twitter saying that his words were "shameful" and that he never imagined a US president would blame the US for "Russian aggression."
Democrats question Trump's motives
House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi echoed Schumer's remarks and wondered what Russia had "personally, financially and politically" on Trump, to explain his refusal to stand up to Putin.
US Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer lambasted Donald Trump, saying his actions have "strengthened our adversaries while weakening our defenses and those of our allies."
Schumer's NATO comment was made in reference to Trump's recent meeting with its members, just days before his trip to Russia. The US president pressured European nations to increase their defense spending and sharply criticized Germany, a traditional US ally. A day before his meeting with Putin, Trump said the EU was a "foe" of the US in regards to trade relations.
Ahead of the Helsinki summit, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German Funke newspaper group that his country could "no longer rely on the US" and that Europe could not let itself become divided.
jcg/rc (Reuters, AFP)