Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who serves as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, slammed President Donald Trump Tuesday for congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “sham” election victory Monday.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections,” McCain said in a statement Tuesday. “And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
McCain’s statement came minutes after Trump told reporters that he had congratulated Putin on his March 18 election during a phone call with the Russian president on Tuesday. Trump also said the two discussed getting together sometime in the near future. Minutes later the White House verified that Trump congratulated Putin on the election.
The White House responded to McCain’s criticism on Tuesday, saying it is “important to have a dialogue with Russia so we can focus on areas of shared interest.”
“At times we’re going to be tough on them,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “Certainly the President finds there to be an importance in having that dialogue with Russia so we can talk about some of the big problems that face the world.”
Sarah Sanders on McCain statement that Trump "insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote" with Putin call:
"The president once again has maintained that it is important to have a dialogue with Russia so that we can share on some areas of shared interest." pic.twitter.com/2jaLucjPjY
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) March 20, 2018
McCain tweeted similar comments on Sunday, saying the U.S. “stands with all Russian yearning for freedom.”
That #Putin had to work so hard to drive voter turnout shows the Russian people know his claim to power is a sham. The US stands with all Russians yearning for freedom. #RussiaElections2018 https://t.co/Ztj2KogmYn
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 18, 2018
The Associated Press reported there was widespread allegations of ballot meddling and forcible voting in Russia leading up to the election. Also, Putin’s main opponent was blocked from the ballot.
The White House said that Trump and Putin did not discuss on Tuesday’s call Russian meddling in the 2016 election or the recent condemnation from the U.S. and Britain over the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy by Russia in the UK.