Senator John McCain (R-AZ) rebuked President Donald Trump after Trump confirmed that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent election victory.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement.
He added: “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election. https://t.co/lcQTBi7CA1
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2018
Trump issued his remarks only a few days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and other “malicious cyberattacks” and after it condemned Russia for its apparent role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil.
If the president was aware of how contentious his call to the Russian president would be, he gave no indication in his comments to White House reporters earlier this afternoon.
“We had a very good call,” Trump said in the Oval Office, where he was meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. “We will probably be meeting in the not-too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control.”
The White House has also released a readout of the call, saying the two leaders “resolved to continue dialogue about mutual national security priorities and challenges.”
“President Trump congratulated President Putin on his March 18 re-election, and emphasized the importance of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. The two leaders confirmed the need for the United States and Russia to continue our shared efforts on strategic stability,” the readout said.
McCain’s criticism referred to Sunday’s Russian presidential election results, which secured Putin an expected victory. Official results showed that Putin, who has ruled the country as either president or prime minister since 1999, received 76 percent of the vote. His opponent, Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race. His nearest competitor, millionaire communist Pavel Grudinin, received roughly 12 percent of the vote.
Putin’s campaign team called his win an “incredible victory.”
“The percentage that we have just seen speaks for itself. It’s a mandate which Putin needs for future decisions, and he has a lot of them to make,” a spokesman told Russia’s Interfax.
Putin, for his part, laughed when a reporter asked him if he would run again in another six years.
“What you are saying is a bit funny. Do you think that I will stay here until I’m 100 years old? No!” he said.
According to independent election monitoring group Golos, voting stations in the country suffered from hundreds of irregularities, including but not limited to voting papers which were found in ballot boxes before polls were officially opened, the decision by the state to bar observers from some polling locations, people who were bused to polling locations amid suspicion of forced voting, and webcams at some polling stations which were obscured by balloons and other obstacles.
— Движение Голос (@golosinfo) March 18, 2018
That Trump would congratulate Putin on an election that was, by many accounts, rigged, was not lost on many of his critics.
Trump claimed with no evidence millions of people voted illegally in US after Clinton won popular vote but just congratulated Putin on clearly fraudulent election
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) March 20, 2018
The fact that Trump congratulates Putin for “winning” another “term” as president of Russia is revolting. Putin attacked an ex Russian spy in the UK, and the UK is the closest ally the US has. I’m just numb sometimes when I read or hear this news.
— Pablo Kutter (@Mossimo77) March 20, 2018
To save you trouble from watching today’s Propaganda briefing, Gross Sycophant Sarah Huckabee Sanders is basically defending Putin’s sham election re-election/Russia in her defense of Predator trump’s congratulatory phone call to Putin. What a disgrace.
— Ricky Davila (@TheRickyDavila) March 20, 2018