President Donald Trump discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russia's attack on the 2016 election with Russian President Vladimir Putin in an hour-long phone call.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that "both leaders knew there was no collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign. Sanders said that the topic was addressed "very, very briefly” during the call Friday morning.
Gotta check in with the boss, eh?
Recall that at a summit in Helsinki, Finland last June, Trump met with Putin behind closed doors and deferred to Putin's denial that Russia meddled in the election.
Putin was “strong and powerful in his denial," Trump said.
“They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters as he stood just six feet from Putin. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
Nevertheless, Mueller made it crystal clear in his report that Russia mounted a coordinated and concerted effort to disrupt the election and engineer a Trump victory and that both sides sought to benefit from those efforts.
"The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion." the report states. “The investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts."
Mueller could not establish, however, that actors within the Trump campaign participated in a criminal conspiracy with the Russians.
“Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," Mueller wrote, "the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Sanders would not confirm if Trump reprimanded Putin for interfering in the election or warned him against doing so in the future.
Onward to 2020?
What we do know, however, is that the White House has torpedoed efforts to safeguard American election systems ahead of next year's election.
Notably, a bipartisan bill aiming to shore up voting machines and requiring paper ballots to ensure legitimate results was shelved last summer after the White House and Republicans in the Senate treated it as dead on arrival.
The White House claimed at the time that the legislation would “violate the principles of federalism.”
“We cannot support legislation with inappropriate mandates or that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections,” White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said.
On Wednesday, Democrats in the Senate blasted the administration's refusal to protect our democratic processes.
“It was Don McGahn,” Wisconsin Senator Amy Klobuchar, a 2020 presidential hopeful, said Wednesday of the former White House counsel. “He called Republicans about the bill, didn’t want them to do it. And McConnell also didn’t want the bill to move forward. So it was a double-edged thing.”
McGahn, a former head of the Federal Election Commission, “had a personal interest in it," Klobuchar said. Now that McGahn is out, “maybe they can look at it fresh," she added.