President Donald Trump’s refusal to rehash allegations of Kremlin-backed interference in the 2016 presidential election during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday incensed Democrat lawmakers and left wing media pundits.
Standing alongside Putin, President Trump steered clear of confrontation with the Russian, while questioning U.S. intelligence and last week’s federal indictments of 12 Russians for hacking into Democratic email accounts to purportedly hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” President Trump said following a two hour one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart. “He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
President Trump’s remarks prompted an onslaught of calls for the U.S. to respond to Russia’s alleged meddling, described as an “act of war.”
Leading up to the high stakes meeting between President Trump and Putin, CNN New Day host Chris Cuomo repeatedly accused Russia of “election hacking” to wage war against the U.S. “The big, ugly white elephant in the room will be the U.S. election hacking,” Cuomo speculated. “We’ve been calling it meddling, but I’m trying to stay away from the word because it’s just way too mild. This is an act of war.”
The CNN host described the Russian hacking allegations as “the truth”: “How does [Donald Trump] raise the act of war of the hacking and different attacks during the U.S. election when Vladimir Putin knows damn well that President Trump doesn’t really believe the truth and doesn’t put a whole lot of stock in the event itself?”
HuffPo’s Mike Signorile published an opinion-editorial on Monday morning affirming Russia committed an “act of war,” while accusing President Trump of refusing to discuss the allegations of meddling with the Russian President.
“You don’t have to believe there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to see this clearly: When Vladimir Putin and his top military intelligence officers facilitated the hacking of the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, they engaged in an act of war against the United States,” Signorile writes. “And that’s what Republicans would be calling it ― war ― if they weren’t in the tank with President Donald Trump, who, instead of strongly condemning Russia, is cozying up to Putin and is infuriated that he and his campaign are under investigation for colluding with Russia and obstructing the probe.”
Echoing Signorile’s hyperbolic analysis, MarketWatch columnist Rex Nutting on Tuesday wrote “Russia’s ongoing attack on our democracy amounts to an act of war,” and criticized President Trump for offering up warm praise for Putin.
The MarketWatch columnist wrote:
Russia’s ongoing attack on our democracy amounts to an act of war. But instead of confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference in Finland on Monday, Donald Trump praised him. Instead of standing up to Putin, Trump stood by him. By his actions, Trump is violating his oath, in which he “solemnly swore” to not only “faithfully execute” his duties as president and commander in chief of the armed forces, but also to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution.
Politico joined HuffPo and MarketWatch in publishing its own analysis of the Helsinki summit, yet again lamenting President Trump’s decision to repair U.S. relations with Russia instead of relitigating Putin’s “act of war,” during the 2016 election.
foreign policy experts Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling and Molly McKew wrote:
Members of the House and Senate have been briefed, but remain deadlocked in partisan bickering. Some in the House have spent more time investigating the investigators than they have in trying to hold Russia accountable. Trump’s suggestion to accept Russian investigators into this process adds a new layer to the sideshow. When right of the boom feels like left of the boom, it’s easy to miss the fact that what the Kremlin did—is doing—was, and is, an act of war.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told MSNBC’s Morning Joe, ahead of the Trump-Putin showdown, that the U.S. faces a continuing act of war by Vladimir Putin.” The Democrat lawmaker said:
I can recall vividly John McCain and I in one Armed Services Committee after another at hearings with our cyber experts saying to them, under the [Barack] Obama administration as well as this administration, why has there been no definition of an act of war in cyber, because we have been attacked. It is an act of war.
DNC chairman Tom Perez told CNN’s Natalie Allen Monday that he believes Russian interference constitutes an “act of war,” and yet, it was not pressing enough for the party to turn over its servers for inspection to the FBI.
“President Trump suggests there was some nefarious reason the DNC didn’t turn over its computer servers after the hacking was discovered, and in fact in January 2017 the FBI said the DNC had rebuffed its request to examine computer servers. Have you since then given the FBI or special counsel investigators access?” the CNN host asked the embattled party leader.
The DNC chair not only dodged the question but shifted into talking point mode, accusing the Russians of committing an “act of war” by meddling in the 2016 elections. Perez claimed:
The DNC cooperated throughout. And the matter at hand is that the Russians, they not only hacked the DNC, they hacked the (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), they attempted to infiltrate secretaries of state, and boards of elections.” “They were successful in one state getting … roughly a half a million individual names and personal information,” Perez added. “And they did this so that they could attempt to swing our elections. That is an act of war, and if we had a Democrat in the White House right now, we would have a cabinet that’s dealing with this.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) made similar remarks to his Democrat colleague Sen. Blumenthal on Tuesday, asserting to Hill.TV hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton that Russian interference in the 2016 election embodied an “act of war,” even going as far as to equate the Kremlin’s acts to an invasion of U.S. territory. Cohen said:
It was a foreign interference with our basic Democratic values. The underpinnings of Democratic society is elections, and free elections, and they invaded our country. A cyber attack that made Russian society valueless. They could have gone into Russian banks, Russian government. Our cyber abilities are such that we could have attacked them with a cyber attack that would have crippled Russia.
Hollywood actor-director Rob Reiner, whose new film Shock and Awe grossed a mere $41,000 on its opening weekend, declared Tuesday that the United States was attacked by Russia in the last election.
The United States was attacked. We didn’t see bombs hitting Pearl Harbor. We didn’t see planes crash into buildings. But cyber missiles struck the heart of our Democracy. It was an insidious Act of War. Anyone who aids and abets this is committing Treason.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) July 17, 2018
“We didn’t see bombs hitting Pearl Harbor. We didn’t see planes crash into buildings. But cyber missiles struck the heart of our Democracy,” tweeted Reiner. “It was an insidious Act of War. Anyone who aids and abets this is committing Treason.”
President Donald Trump sought Tuesday to “clarify” his public undermining of American intelligence agencies, saying he had misspoken when he said he saw no reason to believe Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
“The sentence should have been, ’I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia” instead of “why it would,” Trump said, in a rare admission of error by the bombastic U.S. leader. His comment came — amid rising rebuke by his own party — about 27 hours after his original, widely reported statement, which he made at a Monday summit in Helsinki standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump said Tuesday. But he added, as he usually does, “It could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.