Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin criticized President Donald Trump on Sunday during an appearance on Face the Nation, saying that the president can quickly become infatuated with “strongmen” leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, CBS News reports. Durbin is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate.
“This president is totally dazzled by Vladimir Putin, by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, by authoritarian leaders in countries like Brazil,” Durbin said. “He gets on the phone with them and loses it, gets all googly eyed over their assertions.”
Durbin was referring to a phone call between Trump and Putin which took place on Friday and reportedly lasted more than an hour. According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, the two leaders touched on the topic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. According to Sanders, the subject was covered “very briefly” and was generally limited to the context of the investigation being complete and that Mueller had found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and any Russian entity, up to and including Putin himself.
While it is true that Mueller’s investigation did not find evidence of a conspiracy involving Trump or his campaign, the report did outline a large and sophisticated effort by Russia to divide the American people and interfere with the 2016 election. In addition to widespread social media campaigns, which were often deceptive in their content and concealed their Russian origins, there has also been evidence of Russian operatives infiltrating voting systems themselves, though there is no sign of anything akin to manipulation of votes.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin slammed President Trump for his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being "dazzled" by strongmen around the world. https://t.co/XzaM2zlAi7
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) May 6, 2019
Also covered on the call were a number of other substantive topics, including negotiations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and continued upheaval in Venezuela. Regarding Venezuela, U.S. intelligence officials have said that Russia and Cuba are both propping up Nicolás Maduro in the country.
Following the call, Trump apparently contradicted those intelligence assessments, saying, in remarks to reporters, that Putin was not interested in getting involved with Venezuela.
In discussing the call during his Face the Nation appearance, Durbin suggested that Trump listen to his own administration officials, namely Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Each have warned about Russia’s expanding military and economic assistance to Maduro, which runs contrary to the U.S. position there.
“Russia has sent at least a planeload full of these little green men that we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine and they are destabilizing the situation there,” the Senator added.