Donald Trump was given stern instructions from his national security team — “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Vladimir Putin on his recent re-election that came after Russia launched an alleged attack in the U.K. that left a former spy dead.
Trump supposedly ignored the order and called Putin on his own, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The report cited officials familiar with the call, who said that Trump allegedly chose to ignore the warning and also did not listen to aides who instructed Trump to condemn Russia on using a nerve agent in the U.K. Trump also did not bring up Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told members of the press, CNN reported.
Trump’s decision to call and congratulate Vladimir Putin is drawing plenty of controversy, especially amid allegations that the Russian election was anything but free and open. Putin’s main opponent was not allowed to run, and there were rampant allegations of ballot stuffing to pad Putin’s margin of victory.
“Restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition,” the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stated in a report on the Russian election (via The Hill).
Arizona Senator John McCain issued a sharp rebuke of Donald Trump for his call to Vladimir Putin, and Nancy Pelosi noted that Trump and his national security team have still not taken steps to protect the upcoming midterm elections from more Russian meddling.
It took President Trump less than 48 hours to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his election. Yet after 14 months, he still refuses to take any concrete steps to prevent foreign interference in the 2018 elections. #ProtectOurDemocracy— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) March 20, 2018
The flap comes as Donald Trump continues to fight off allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. Trump has repeatedly denied the charges and issued his strongest rebuke yet of special counsel Robert Mueller, attacking Mueller by name for the first time over the weekend while calling the investigation a “witch hunt.”
Mueller has reportedly sent questions to the White House for a potential interview with Trump, though Mueller and investigators remain tight-lipped and there is no official date on when Trump might sit with investigators for an interview.
In speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Donald Trump said he and Vladimir Putin planned to have another meeting sometime in the near future to discuss the “arms race.”