President Donald Trump’s boast that “nobody’s been tougher on Russia” than he has is all that needs to be said to bolster the new sanctions the administration cast on Russia Friday, according to the White House.
Responding to questions about why Trump hasn’t spoken out directly about the punitive measures the U.S. imposed Friday — hitting seven Russian oligarchs and 17 government officials with sanctions — press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the notion “ridiculous.”
“It’s ridiculous that you guys say that,” she said. “Just earlier this week the President stood on a stage in an open press room and talked about how he had been tough on Russia. And he has continued to do that through action. We’ve continued to do that through a number of administration officials.
“To say that the President hasn’t addressed that directly, he did that while standing on stage with the leaders of the Baltic countries, in front of, I believe, almost every single one of you earlier this week, so its just not a fair or accurate statement,” she added.
Reporters pressed further, questioning why Trump hadn’t spoken directly to the issues that the administration has condemned in putting pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, like Russia’s activity in Syria and cyber crimes.
“We speak on behalf of the President day in and day out,” she said. “The President has signed off and directed these actions. I think that speaks volumes on how the President feels and exactly underscores what he said earlier this week when he said ‘no one has been tougher on Russia.’”
While it’s true the administration has recently rolled out a series of actions to punish Putin, Trump has avoided directly criticizing him and notably dragged his feet in imposing sanctions on the country for election meddling.
Trump recently phoned Putin and congratulated him on his election — even though it was widely reported that the election was rigged and Trump was advised not to congratulate him — and invited him to visit the White House.
During a press conference with Baltic leaders earlier this week, Trump did say he was tough on Russia, but went on to gloat that he “could have a very good relationship with President Putin” and opined that it was “a good thing” to get along with Russia.