Sasse rips Trump for congratulating Putin on ‘sham’ election win

- Maret 21, 2018

Sen. Ben Sasse tore into President Donald Trump Wednesday for making a congratulatory call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it "terribly ill-advised" and urging staffers who leaked Trump's briefing materials to resign.

The Nebraska Republican, in a speech on the Senate floor, called Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' refusal to condemn Putin's "sham" election this week "very foolhardy" — among the strongest statements made by a member of Trump's own party in the aftermath of Trump's call to the Russian president.

Sasse even turned Trump's signature campaign phrase against him, condemning a "Russian despot that aims to make Soviet tyranny great again."

"The president of the United States was wrong to congratulate him, and the White House press secretary was wrong to duck a simple question about whether or not Putin's reelection was free and fair. It was not. The American people know that, the Russian people know that and the world knows that," Sasse said. "The White House refused to speak directly and clearly about this matter; we were weakened as a nation and a tyrant was strengthened."


Trump has hit back amid the mounting criticism.

"I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also)," Trump tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. "Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing."

Sasse never supported Trump's presidential campaign, though he kept a relatively low-profile during the first year of Trump's presidency. Lately, however, Sasse has felt compelled to speak out against Trump's new tariffs, his comments about due process and on Wednesday, about his foreign policy.

Other Senate Republicans have also criticized Trump's call to Putin on Tuesday, notably John McCain of Arizona. But Sasse's comments stand out given his past opposition to Trump and the venue of the Senate floor.

"The moral responsibilities of the office of the presidency matter. And when we don't affirm these basic truths, it is a failure to who we are. It is a failure to do what we do, and it is a betrayal. Not just to the millions of people who are denied free and fair elections in Russia this week, but it is a failure to people all across the globe who are struggling in darkness against tyrants," Sasse said.


Several media outlets reported that Trump's briefing materials included a directive not to congratulate Putin, which Trump ignored. Sasse said the leaking of those materials is "wrong."

“A president’s staff shouldn’t leak. In cases of principle, you may need to resign. So resign,” Sasse said. “Do the right and honorable thing if you believe your conscience is compelled to do so and resign your position.”


 

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