Portman, Brown, McConnell and others find common ground as they rebuke Trump's comments on Russia

Posted at 12:28 AM, Jul 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-17 22:23:01-04

President Donald Trump's conciliatory posture toward Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday in Helsinki -- which included remarks blaming the United States for the two nations' tense relationship and questioning the intelligence community's conclusion that Russian meddled in the 2016 election -- attracted rebuke from both sides of the aisle, including from Republicans who have traditionally defended Trump's stream-of-consciousness style of speaking and governing.

What did our representatives think?


Republican Sen. Rob Portman called the president's comments "troubling" in a statement and wrote that "(Trump) failed to stand up to Vladimir Putin on some of the most critical security issues facing our country and our allies."

He added: "We all want to see a better relationship between our two countries, but we must make clear directly to President Putin and to the world that Russia's actions on the world stage are unacceptable and a change in their behavior is necessary in order to improve relations."

Portman's Democratic counterpart, Sen. Sherrod Brown, took particular umbrage with Trump's assertion that "much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people."

Addressing Congress, he framed the comment as one that tread dangerously close to creating a news environment similar to the one that exists in Russia, where journalists are murdered and attacked so frequently Dec. 15 has become a holiday of remembrance.

"That's Soviet talk, that's Putin kind of talk, that's KGB talk. It's never been the talk of an American president," he said of Trump's comment before criticizing congressional Republicans. "Almost nobody on this side of the aisle will stand up and say, ‘No, Mr. President.'"

Brown's passionate defense of the press is personal: His wife, columnist Connie Schultz, is a Pulitzer Prize winner and former Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter.

Republican Rep. Steve Chabot released a written statement criticizing Putin for annexing Crimea, supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria and attempting to use cyber attacks "to undermine democratic institutions."

 "If Vladimir Putin wants to know why the relationship between the United States and Russia is at a low point, then he should look in a mirror," Chabot said. "Putin is a bully and a thug, and certainly no friend of the United States."

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who hopes to unseat Chabot in November, retweeted Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake's rebuke of the president: "I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful."


The state's senators each struck out at the president and defended the intelligence community.

Sen. Todd Young, a Republican, tweeted that "Moscow invades and bullies its neighbors, disregards its treaty obligations, seeks to divide NATO, and props up the murderous Assad regime" and said he had "no reason to doubt the clear conclusions of the intelligence community when it comes to Moscow's attempts to undermine our democracy."

Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly issued a statement in the same vein, calling the intelligence workers who discovered Russia's interference "hard-working and patriotic Americans" and the meeting "a setback for American national security."

Both men voiced a desire for Congress and the United States government at large to hold Russia accountable for its election meddling.

"When it comes to defending our democratic institutions against foreign subversion and meddling, we are Americans," Young wrote. "Not Republicans or Democrats."


Libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul, known for a stubbornness that can put him at odds even with members of his own party, found himself in an unusual position Monday: The lone voice of assent.

Among all six senators representing the Tri-State region, Paul was the only one to express support for Trump's comments and the tenor of the meeting.

"I think you may get a breakthrough because of the meetings," he told PBS NewsHour. "I think if this were anybody else, if there weren't such acute hatred for Trump … The left and the media would have had a lovefest over President Obama (taking the same meeting)."

His senior counterpart, fellow Republican and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, issued glowing news releases about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the state of the American economy Monday but did not make a written statement about the Trump-Putin summit available on his web site or Twitter.

According to The Hill, he had just one comment for reporters: "I have said a number of times, I'll say it again: The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community."