Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) lambasted President Donald Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.
The Arizona senator released a statement describing President Trump’s remarks during the press conference as “pathetic,” disgraceful,” and “painful” to observe — “a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency.”
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake,” Sen. McCain’s statement begins. “President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.”
It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
McCain highlighted the coziness between President Trump and his Russian counterpoint in contrast to his tough talk towards the United States’ European allies. Last Wednesday, President Trump scolded Germany during a breakfast with NATO officials in Brussel over Berlin’s support of a Baltic Sea gas pipeline deal with the Kremlin, describing Europe’s largest economy as a “captive of Russians.” In an interview with British tabloid The Sun, President Trump predicted the British government’s proposed watered down Brexit strategy “will probably kill” hopes of a bilateral trade agreement with the United States. Ahead of his high-stakes meeting with Putin, President Trump branded the European Union a “foe” in respect to trade.
“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency,” the statement continues.” That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.”
McCain concluded his blistering statement by accusing Trump of failing to uphold American values abroad, something he claims the president has failed to do since winning the White House.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed,” McCain said. “Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”
Presidents Trump and Putin vowed a fresh start to troubled relations between the world’s greatest nuclear powers at their summit, as the American leader rejected a chance to condemn Moscow’s alleged manipulation of U.S. elections. Standing alongside Putin at a joint news conference, President Trump said he had “spent a great deal of time talking about” election meddling, without going into detail or explicitly condemning any interference after 12 Russian agents were indicted in the United States.
When pressed about alleged meddling, President Trump stressed that Putin had delivered a “powerful” denial of any Russian vote meddling and said the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller had been a “disaster” for the United States. President Trump again denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, while Putin insisted: “The Russian state has never interfered and is not planning to interfere in the USA’s internal affairs.”
The Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.