Donald Trump just can't help but fall under Vladimir Putin's spell when the two talk, a Democratic Senator claims.
President Trump came under fire this week for his 90-minute phone call with the Russian president in which the two discussed a range of topics that included the recently completed report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump said he did not discuss election interference with Putin, despite the widespread consensus among American intelligence agencies that Putin ordered Russia to interfere in the 2016 election and is already starting work on interfering in the 2020 election as well.
The relationship between Trump and Putin caught the attention of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the upper house of Congress. Durbin said this week that Trump has a tendency to be "dazzled" by strongmen.
"This president is totally dazzled by Vladimir Putin, by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, by authoritarian leaders in countries like Brazil," Durbin said in an appearance on Face the Nation on Sunday, via CBS News. "He gets on the phone with them and loses it, gets all googly eyed over their assertions that they have nothing to with what's going on in Venezuela."
Trump has frequently sided with Putin over his own intelligence agencies, both on the issue of Russia interference in the 2016 presidential election and now about Russia's involvement in Venezuela as well. As Durbin noted, Trump's own Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Kremlin is giving military and economic assistance to the Maduro government, but Trump said he believed Putin when the Russian president told him they are staying out of the unrest in the South American country.
"(Putin) is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela," Trump said.
Just on Sunday, Pompeo publicly pressed for Russia to "get out" of Venezuela, Radio Free Europe reported. Pompeo spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ahead of their planned meeting in Finland this week, calling on Russia to stop offering assistance to the embattled Maduro government.Donald Trump has long been criticized for his close relationship with Putin and the lengths he has gone to conceal his discussions with the Russian leader. A report from the Washington Post earlier this year outlines the steps Trump took to keep the discussions secret, including destroying notes and refusing to brief even his own cabinet members about what was discussed.