ABC News(WASHINGTON) — A Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that since President Donald Trump has “believed” President Vladimir Putin’s denials that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, it “belies common sense” that Trump “is going to sit down across from Putin and press him hard on the issue of Russian meddling.”
“He has already said that he has asked Putin about meddling,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said of Trump on Sunday in an interview on This Week. “Putin told him he didn’t do it, and he believed him. And so it just belies common sense that the president of the United States, this president, is going to sit down across from Putin and press him hard on the issue of Russian meddling.”
Murphy was responding to an earlier interview with John Bolton, in which the national security adviser told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that the latest special counsel indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for meddling in the 2016 election actually “strengthens” the president’s hand ahead of his Monday summit with Putin in Helsinki.
“I’d like to know the name of the president that John Bolton thinks he works for, because he’s not describing President Trump — President Trump went on TV after the indictment was issued and called the investigation once again a hoax,” Murphy said. “He knows that he benefited from it, he asked them to do it, and he knows that he still stands to benefit.”
Murphy added that U.S. intelligence services have said that Russia is still trying to interfere in U.S. elections.
“What I believe is that President Trump knows ultimately knows that could accrue to his benefit and to his party’s benefit. He is simply not going to raise this issue as strongly as he should, if at all, with Putin, which is why many of us think that this summit should stand down,” he told Karl on This Week.
The summit comes just days after special counsel Robert Mueller filed an indictment charging 12 Russian intelligence officers for conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The indictment alleges that named defendants worked in the GRU, Russia’s intelligence body, and specifically took part in a sustained effort to hack into the networks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Murphy said that Trump needs to approach Congress and “ask for more funds to stand up electoral defenses.”
“He’s done none of that,” Murphy told Karl. “We have had to essentially bludgeon the president into issuing sanctions, and the Congress has had to appropriate money to try to shore up our electoral defenses.”
Murphy also was critical of Trump’s recent NATO visit. The president has been critical of the amount members of the alliance are have been spending. An agreement in 2014 stated that the member nations would move toward each committing 2 percent GDP to defense spending by 2024.
“It is an important issue, but let’s remember the percentage of your budget dedicated defense is not the sum total of your participation in the alliance,” Murphy said.
“But our allies can pull more of their weight here, can’t they?” asked Karl.
“They certainly can, but so can we,” responded Murphy, adding that the U.S. is “not picking up our share of the burden” with the refugee crisis in the Middle East.
“But let’s be clear, NATO today is arguably functionally obsolete,” Murphy said. “Do you really believe that if the Europeans were attacked in the Baltic States, for instance by Russia, that President Trump would leap to their defense?”
Under Article 5, the NATO treaty states that if one member nation is attacked, it’s an attack on all member nations, and that nations will defend each other. It’s a commitment to solidarity within the alliance. Article 5 was invoked after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
“It’s always going to be a political decision as to whether you actually enforce Article 5, and I think that there is a very important question today as to whether President Trump would actually stand up for Article 5,” Murphy said. “I think NATO is just trying to survive the next two-and-a-half years by saying these nice things about the state of the alliance so that it’s still there when Trump’s gone.”
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