President Donald Trump’s clumsy attempt to walk back his disastrous performance at the joint presser with Russian President Vladimir Putin has fallen short for many skittish Republicans who are on the record criticizing his initial remarks, according to a Wednesday Politico report.
Many have yet to hear from chief of staff John Kelly, who often plays cleanup after Trump’s mishits, and have reportedly chosen to surge forward in their attempts to pass legislation blocking Russia from or punishing Russia for future election interference.
“In the end, we can present people with information. But you can’t force anyone to say what you want them to say, especially the President of the United States,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Politico. “Our job is to pass laws and do things that are for the good of the country … and one of those things should be [imposing] strong deterrence measures with pre-positioned penalties should [Russian meddling] ever happen again.”
Many feel that they have no other option but to press on alone, as Trump has displayed such a clear unwillingness to genuinely change his tune on Putin.
“You could see it was very painful,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told Politico of Trump’s attempted walk-back where he said he “misspoke” during the presser.
For many Republicans, Trump’s nonchalant throwing of the FBI under the bus was a bridge too far.
Trump’s bungled retraction is “probably the best we’re going to be able to get, right?” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told Politico. “He attempted to clarify it, but ineffectively. The last couple days certainly haven’t been an example of a willingness to express support for what the intelligence community is clearly telling us.”
“He’s got to acknowledge that there’s a consensus among our intelligence agencies, including our committees here on Capitol Hill, not only that the Russians interfered and meddled with our elections in 2016, but are doing it again in 2018,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) added. “And that’s why we need to take action.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voiced a common sentiment that Trump looks weak and feckless in his refusal to believably condemn Putin for the hackers’ actions to undermine America’s democracy.
“I think [Trump] sent very conflicting, mixed messages to someone who is clearly our adversary, about whom there is absolutely no doubt that he attempted to interfere in our elections,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) strongly feels he needs to tell Putin “no more. Knock it off. Stay away. Get out. And demand that Russia stay away when it comes to our elections. And I didn’t hear that in his walk-back,” she added. “I’m still waiting.”