- Thomson Reuters
President Donald Trump appeared to echo Kremlin talking points Thursday morning when he tweeted that Congress was to blame for the US relationship with Russia being at an “all-time & very dangerous low.”
“Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low,” he said. “You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”
Lawmakers replied that Trump’s ire would be better directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“If only that outrage was directed at Putin, the murderous dictator who attacked our democracy. #ChecksAndBalances,” GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted.
“Our relationship w/ Russia is at dangerous low,” tweeted Republican Sen. John McCain. “You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbors & threatening our allies.”
Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, had a similar response: “Or you could thank Russian dictator Putin, who hacked US election, undermines Western alliances, invaded Ukraine & annexed Crimea.”
Trump’s tweet came a day after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev used Twitter to denounce the veto-proof sanctions bill that Trump was essentially handcuffed into signing into law on Wednesday, appearing to challenge the president’s ego by calling his administration weak while pinning the blame on Congress.
“The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way,” Medvedev tweeted on Wednesday.
Jeremy Bash, the former chief of staff at the Defense Department and the CIA, predicted earlier this week that Trump’s “bromance” with Putin would continue even if Trump signed the sanctions bill because Putin would know Trump was backed into a corner by Congress.
Medvedev seemed to acknowledge that on Wednesday, writing that Trump was “not happy about the sanctions” but “could not but sign the bill.”
“The US establishment fully outwitted Trump,” he said.
- Carlos Barria/Reuters
Trump is known for “punching back” when he feels slighted. He slammed China last weekend, for instance, for its reluctance to rein in North Korea. He criticized Mayor Sadiq Khan of London hours after a deadly terrorist attack rocked the city in June. Last year, during the presidential campaign, he attacked the parents of slain US Army Cpt. Humayun Khan after they spoke out against him at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
As of Thursday, however, Trump still had not responded to Putin’s demand that 755 diplomatic workers, many of them American, be cut from the US Embassy in Moscow and from US diplomatic missions in St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Vladivostok.
The cuts would be the steepest in nearly 100 years and would go much further than President Barack Obama’s decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the US as punishment for Russia’s election interference.
Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who served as a National Security Council spokesman and special assistant to President Barack Obama, called Trump’s tweet on Thursday “inexplicable” and said it “does nothing more than reiterate what Moscow already knows: namely that Russia has a stalwart friend in the form of the President of the United States.”
But Price said it was not the first time Trump “has parroted Kremlin talking points.”
“He did it consistently during the campaign – actually directing his supporters to Moscow’s propaganda – and has continued to do so as president,” Price said on Thursday. “Moscow may well know why President Trump is so loyal, but the American people continue to be baffled – and rightly so.”
Trump’s attacks on Congress mark a bizarre turning point in the drama unfolding between the White House and the GOP-controlled House and Senate.
That battle has escalated in recent weeks amid the Senate’s failure to pass a healthcare bill, and Trump has criticized Republicans for failing to protect him amid the intelligence committees’ investigations into his campaign’s contacts with Russia during the election.
“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump tweeted late last month. “It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President.”
A provision in the new sanctions law requiring Trump to get congressional approval before altering or lifting sanctions on Russia has also been a major point of contention between the White House and Congress.
Trump, who has expressed lingering doubts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, said shortly after signing the bill into law on Wednesday that “America will not tolerate interference in our democratic process,” and he denounced “Russian subversion and destabilization.”
But he called the legislation “seriously flawed,” saying it “improperly encroaches on executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.”