In a bipartisan showing, key Senate Intelligence committee members on Monday blasted President Trump for failing to publicly blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for hacking the 2016 U.S. presidential election during the two leaders’ joint press conference in Finland.
“I think President Trump’s actions today were outrageous,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the committee’s ranking Democrat. “The president of the United States sided with Vladimir Putin over the unanimous assessment of the American intelligence community, over the bipartisan conclusion of the Senate Intelligence committee, over the acknowledgment of Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube … that Russia manipulated their platforms.”
Hours later at a gathering at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington with members of parliament from the U.K., Canada and Eastern Europe, Mr. Warner was joined by fellow committee member Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, to discuss broader themes of Russian geopolitical aggression.
“What the president said today is not accurate,” Mr. Rubio said. “The intelligence community has assembled probably an unparalleled amount of evidence in regards to Russian efforts to interfere, not just in 2016, but in ongoing efforts, not just in American society … but in many other parts of the world represented here today.”
Earlier this month, the Senate panel released unclassified, initial findings from its 16 months of investigative work. It concluded that the U.S. intelligence community’s initial January 2017 assessment that Russia secretly tried to interfere in 2016 to boost Mr. Trump and hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was “well-supported and the tradecraft was strong.”
On Monday, both senators lashed out at Mr. Trump for appearing to miss an opportunity to publicly confront Mr. Putin about those findings, in addition to calling special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the issue a “disaster for our country.”
“If the president cannot defend the United States and its interests in public, how can we trust him to stand up for our country in private?” Mr. Warner said, referring to what the presidents might have discussed during their closed-door session.
Mr. Rubio also harshly criticized Mr. Putin for exploiting “a broad erosion of trust across [U.S.] society” adding that the Russian leader, who has ruled since 1999, had succeeded in his primary objective “to sow instability and distrust” across the American electorate “so that we are so busy fighting each other, that we do not have time to take him as threat.”
Mr. Warner was one of many Democrats who on Friday called for Mr. Trump to cancel the Helsinki talks after Mr. Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking into the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton presidential campaign.
The charges also included attempting to break into state boards of elections and other government agencies, conspiracy against the U.S. and money laundering.