Lawmakers On Capitol Hill React To Trump After Putin Meeting

Jul 17, 2018
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

House Speaker Paul Ryan has been speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill today, saying that he is willing to consider additional sanctions on Russia and also emphasizing that Russia did interfere in the presidential election in 2016.

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PAUL RYAN: We just conducted a yearlong investigation into Russia's interference in our elections. They did interfere in our elections. It's really clear. There should be no doubt about that.

GREENE: Now, many senators and representatives, including other Republicans, have been criticizing what they see as President Trump's failure to support the American intelligence community at a summit with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, yesterday in Helsinki. I want to bring in NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell in - on Capitol Hill. She is on the line.

Good morning, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So it feels like pressure is really building from Republicans who are speaking out against the president. I mean, how forceful is this compared to what we've seen in the past?

SNELL: It's still a mix. We saw yesterday that the vast majority of Republicans were saying that they were either uncomfortable with the way the president talked during the press conference or said that they needed to reaffirm their support for the intelligence community. But most of them are not criticizing Trump specifically, and they're just directing their criticism at Russia or again reaffirming their support for the intelligence community. You can hear what Speaker Ryan said to reporters a little bit earlier.

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RYAN: Let me try and be as clear as I can to the world and the country. We stand by our NATO allies and all those countries who are facing Russia aggression. How many times have I stood up here and told you what I think about Vladimir Putin? Vladimir Putin does not share our interests. Vladimir Putin does not share our values.

SNELL: Yeah, and Ryan repeated that Russia did interfere with the election again. It was a big break with the president. But he didn't answer a question about whether Trump should clarify his position on Russia or do anything to reassure allies.

GREENE: Oh, that's so interesting. So they're making their break with the president very evident but not directly calling on the president to do anything differently at this point.

SNELL: Yeah, they're doing it very carefully.

GREENE: Although I guess we should say that there are Democrats and other critics who think that the president has a lot of work to do to, you know, in their view, fix what went wrong yesterday.

SNELL: Yeah. There is a lot of harsh criticism coming from Democrats. Just a few minutes ago, Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, was on the Senate floor, calling on Republicans to do more than just talk about supporting Russia. Here's what he said.

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DICK DURBIN: Is there anyone in the Senate, anyone who took the oath to protect our nation against enemies foreign and domestic who thinks any of us, regardless of political party, should receive help from a foreign adversary to get elected? I hope we all agree that country must come before party.

SNELL: Yeah, that's a big push. And they - he's talking about these Republicans who say a lot of things and statements but really have not been able to identify what they would do about it.

GREENE: Well, what can Congress actually do to push back on Russia? What are the options here?

SNELL: Well, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat from New York, is calling for four things. He wants more aggressive sanctions on Russia. He wants the administration delegation that was at those meetings this past week to testify before Congress. He wants Republicans to back the Mueller investigation, including having the president testify. And he wants Republicans to demand that Russia extradite the 12 Russians who were indicted by the Justice Department for hacking last week. Republicans have basically dismissed those demands out of hand and are saying that, you know, they've done a lot; they've passed sanctions; they're trying.

GREENE: I mean, such an interesting moment because the White House has actually also taken a lot of tough actions against Russia, even as the president has been standing there with Vladimir Putin looking very friendly. So this is a difficult moment to figure out - a lot of head scratching right now in Congress and throughout Washington. NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell. Kelsey, we appreciate it.

SNELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.