President Donald Trump Monday appeared to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's denial of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, prompting a sharply critical response from U.S. lawmakers.
“President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said as he stood next to Putin at a joint news conference between the two leaders following their talks in Helsinki.
“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said during a news conference following talks between the two leaders. “Let me say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be."
In further comments that angered some U.S. lawmakers, Trump suggested the United States and Russia were to blame for troubled relations between the two countries.
While Trump later walked back some of those comments on Tuesday (claiming he didn't see any reason why it "wouldn't" be Russia), his remarks triggered mostly condemnation from both sides of the asile. Here's how some of Ohio's politicians reacted:
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R) said President Trump "failed to stand up to Vladimir Putin on some of the most critical security issues facing our country and our allies."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) issued the following statement:
“The intelligence experts we trust to keep America safe have said that Russia continues to threaten our democracy and our critical infrastructure, and the President missed an opportunity to do something about it,” Brown said. “The Ukrainian community in Ohio knows all too well the dangers of unchecked Russian aggression. We must demand Russia turn over the spies who hacked our election and show Putin we will not put up with threats to our infrastructure that undercut our democratic institutions.”
Brown's opponent in this year's Senate race, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R) from the state's 16th district, has yet to comment on the situation.
Gov. John Kasich tweeted a statement, calling the meeting "misguided", and later voiced further displeasure on various cable news shows:
Neither of the candidates to succeed Kasich as governor—Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) or former Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray (D)—has commented.
4th District U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a steadfast supporter of the president in the GOP, admitted Americans "can't trust" Russia, but also questioned the credibility of those in the justice department.
Jordan's Democratic opponent, union leader and school teacher Janet Garrett, condemned Trump and promised, if elected, to put "#CountryOverParty".
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R), whose district represents Carroll and part of Tuscarawas Counties, issued this statement to The Vindicator in Youngstown:
“Make no mistake about it, Vladimir Putin is a tyrant. He uses fear and intimidation to accomplish his goals, and the evidence of that is his violation of international law when he invaded Ukraine. [Monday], I was hoping to hear the president make a stronger public statement condemning Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election, the evidence of which is clear. However, I wasn’t in the room during the meeting, and I don’t know what was said behind closed doors, and neither does anyone else.
“But, what we do know is that actions speak louder than words. In all of [Monday’s] rhetoric, we can’t forget that President Trump has been tougher on Russia than both President Obama and President Bush: he armed opposition forces in Ukraine, he imposed tougher economic sanctions on Russia that still exist today, and he defied Russian warnings when he directly confronted the Russian-backed [Bashar] Assad regime in Syria with military force.”
Beekeeper Shawna Roberts, the Democratic nominee against Johnson, applauded Belmont County GOP leader Chris Gagin, who resigned in disgust following the president's comments.
Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, from the 7th district, has yet to comment publicly. His opponent, former U.S. Navy pilot Ken Harbaugh, made it clear he feels "Putin is not our friend."
Democratic 9th district U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur issued a strong rebuke of Trump on the House floor Monday, calling his performance "unpatriotic" and "feckless."
Kaptur's fellow congresswoman, 11th district Rep. Marcia Fudge, called the ordeal "a national embarrassment" and called the president "a willing marionette for Putin."
Both candidates running to replace retired-U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi in the 12th district—Troy Balderson (R) and Danny O'Connor—have thus far not given their thoughts.
13th district U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D) called the episode "a disgraceful setback for U.S. global leadership."
Ryan's GOP opponent, attorney Chris DePizzo, has yet to comment.
U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, a Republican from District 14, also made clear that, "Russia is not our friend." He also called on Congress to expand sanctions against the country and to review "any presidential motive to ease actions."
Joyce's opponent, Civil Rights attorney Betsy Rader, seemed to attack the congressman for not doing enough to stand up to Trump, writing, "We need leaders in this country who are true patriots..."
USA Today contributed to this story.