Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) dramatically called President Donald Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “Orwellian” on Thursday, in an effort to pass a non-binding Senate resolution that’s little more than a pat on the back for law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and which was ultimately blocked.
“We saw earlier this week in Helsinki what was truly an Orwellian moment,” he said from the Senate floor. “What we saw earlier this week in Helsinki is what happens when you wage war on objective reality for nearly two solid years, calling real things fake and fake things real, as if conditioning others to embrace the same confusion.”
After congratulating the Justice Department and intelligence community for their work, the three-page resolution “calls upon relevant committees of the Senate to exercise congressional oversight, including prompt hearings and the release of relevant notes and information” on Trump and Putin’s Helsinki meeting, and “calls for the immediate and full implementation of mandatory sanctions provided for in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act,” which Trump signed into law after overwhelming congressional support last year. (Read the full resolution below.)
“Ultimately,” Flake continued, “you’re rendered unable to tell the difference between the two and are at critical times seemingly rendered incapable of thinking clearly, your mind a hash of conspiracy theory and fragments of old talking points deployed in response to a question no one even asked. Ultimately you fail to summon reality in the face of a despot in defense of your country.”
He added later: “When the American government offers an onslaught on unreality, it puts the whole world at risk. That is the lesson of Helsinki. That is the dose of reality that hit hard. We have indulged myths and fabrications, pretended that it wasn’t so bad and our indulgence got us the capitulation in Helsinki.”
When Flake asked for the Senate’s unanimous consent to adopt the measure, Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) objected to it as a “symbolic act,” blocking it. Flake said he and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) would bring it up again in the future.
Earlier, Coons began his remarks, just before Flake’s, by saying the resolution would send a bipartisan message that “we stand with the men and women of the Department of Justice, the men and women of the U.S. intelligence community. We sport the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our elections and we must act, and act unequivocally, to hold Russia accountable for its actions.”
“Today’s resolution is a first step, and an important one,” he added later, calling the resolution “very basic.”
“We should stand and be counted in defense of our democracy,” he concluded.
Read Flake and Coons’ resolution below: