According to an alarming report from The Washington Post, President Trump ignored a warning on his national security briefing which — in all caps — told him not to congratulate Russian president Vladimir Putin on his recent reelection victory.
“DO NOT CONGRATULATE,” read the alert. Nevertheless, Trump congratulated Putin during a phone call on Tuesday, directly going against the advice of his national security advisers.
Trump was also advised to make a strong statement to Putin regarding the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. He failed to do that as well, the Post reports.
The White House press office declined to comment on the briefing materials given to Trump. Two people familiar with the notecards acknowledged that they included instructions not to congratulate Putin. But a senior White House official emphasized that national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not mention the issue during a telephone briefing with the president, who was in the White House residence ahead of and during his conversation with Putin.
It was not clear whether Trump read the notes, administration officials said. Trump, who initiated the call, opened it with the congratulations for Putin, one person familiar with the conversation said.
Both the U.S. and the U.K. are in agreement that Russia was behind the poisonings.
Trump was hit from both sides of isle over his seeming unwillingness to take an adversarial stance towards Russia, which meddled in the 2016 U.S. election. On Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) slammed Trump for his congratulatory call, saying “an American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections.”
When pressed on whether the Russian election was “free and fair,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the U.S. doesn’t “get to dictate how other countries operate.”
According to Russian observers, Putin’s overwhelming victory was made possible by “large-scale violations” in the country’s election process, which included alleged ballot-stuffing that was captured on state-controlled cameras.
“Restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression, as well as on candidate registration, have limited the space for political engagement and resulted in a lack of genuine competition,” the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe wrote in a report, according to The Hill.
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