Monday 21 January 2019

Trump ignored warnings to avoid congratulating Putin

President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters

Jonathan Lemire

US President Donald Trump was warned in briefing materials to refrain from congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election, but he did so anyway, a senior White House source has revealed.

Aides included a section in Mr Trump's briefing materials for his phone call to Mr Putin, stating: "DO NOT CONGRATULATE," said the official.

The White House said in a statement it would be a "fireable offence and likely illegal" to leak Mr Trump's briefing papers to the press.

It was unclear whether Mr Trump, who prefers oral briefings, read the talking points prepared by his national security team before the call. National Security Adviser HR McMaster briefed the president in person before the call in the White House.

Mr Trump's call of congratulations drew bruising criticism from members of his own party even before the 'Washington Post' first reported that aides had advised against it.

Mr Trump also said that he and Mr Putin might meet "in the not too distant future" to discuss the arms race and other matters.

What they didn't discuss on Tuesday was noteworthy as well: Mr Trump did not raise Russia's meddling in the US elections or its suspected involvement in the recent poisoning of a former spy in Britain.

"An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections," said Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and has pressed the Trump administration to respond aggressively to Russia's interference in the US presidential election.

Republican Senator Charles Grassley said: "I think Putin's a criminal.

"What he did in Georgia, what he did in Ukraine, what he did in the Baltics, in London...That's a criminal activity.

"I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal."

Irish Independent

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