- REUTERS/Gary Cameron
- Republican Sen. Ben Sasse said that President Donald Trump’s congratulatory phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin was “terribly ill-advised” and said it had weakened America.
- He also criticized Putin by turning Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan around against him.
- Sasse also said that whoever leaked Trump’s briefing materials that contained a reminder to not congratulate Putin should resign.
A GOP senator has offered perhaps the harshest Republican rebuke yet of President Donald Trump’s congratulatory phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and turned Trump’s signature campaign slogan around to criticize both the Russian strongman and Trump’s call.
In a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Politico reported that Sasse called the phone call “terribly ill-advised,” and called Putin a “Russian despot that aims to make Soviet tyranny great again” in a clear reference to Trump’s own campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
In a strong statement, he added that in making the move, Trump had weakened the United States itself.
“The president of the United States was wrong to congratulate him, and the White House press secretary was wrong to duck a simple question about whether or not Putin’s reelection was free and fair. It was not,” Sasse said, referring to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ refusal to call the Russian election fraudulent.
“The American people know that, the Russian people know that and the world knows that. The White House refused to speak directly and clearly about this matter; we were weakened as a nation and a tyrant was strengthened.”
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, swooped in with sharper teeth, saying on Twitter:
“Bush, Obama and Clinton may lack your “smarts,” but they didn’t need their staff to tell them DO NOT CONGRATULATE a man who helps North Korea evade sanctions, props up a murderer in Syria, invades his neighbors, and who just used nerve agent in Britain.”
Russian election observers claimed numerous violations in the Russian elections, including ballot-stuffing and voter coercion. A noted Russian election monitor claimed that Putin may have received as many as 10 million fraudulent votes.
Trump was apparently perturbed by the news of the leak, and despite his harsh words, Sasse called on whoever leaked the materials to resign.
But since the news of his call broke, Trump has doubled down on why the call was a good thing.
“I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also),” Trump tweeted on Wednesday. “Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”