Republicans Criticized Trump After He Congratulated Vladimir Putin For Winning Reelection
"An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators," Sen. John McCain said. "President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election."
President Donald Trump congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday for winning reelection, prompting a wave of criticism for what some said was the applauding of a political strongman.
"I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory," Trump told reporters from the Oval Office Tuesday. "We had a very good call and I suspect we'll probably be meeting in the not-so-distant future."
"President Trump congratulated President Putin on his March 18 re-election, and emphasized the importance of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula," read a White House description of the call.
Not only is Russia believed to have meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, but Putin's policies involving assembly, speech, and candidate registration is believed to have greatly impacted its own presidential election this year, which Putin easily won.
According to the BBC, Putin won the election with 76.68% of the vote.
Sen. John McCain, a fellow Republican, blasted Trump for the call, saying the president "insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election."
Speaking on HLN, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said, "I wish President Trump was clearer in denouncing the oppression and dictatorship of Putin."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't directly criticize Trump for the call when talking to reporters Tuesday, but said that calling Putin "wouldn't have been high on my list."
Putin has remained in power in Russia since 1999, leading the country in either the position of president or prime minister.
Since then, his government has been known to crack down on political dissidents and critics ruthlessly.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the call. Asked if the White House believed Russia's election was free and fair, she told reporters, "We don't get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country and that's not something we can dictate."
Democrats also took a swing at Trump. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said, "Authoritarian leaders don't win elections, they steal them."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted that Trump has yet to take "concrete steps" against Russia for interfering in the US election.
Despite the criticism, it is not unusual for US presidents to congratulate Putin in his election victories. In 2012, then-president Barack Obama also called Putin to congratulate him on his election win.
The Trump administration, however, has made the decision not to speak with world leaders believed to unfairly taint democratic elections. Last year, for example, Trump declined to take a call from Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro, stating that the US has asked him to "hold free and fair elections."
French President Emmanuel Macron also acknowledged Putin's win — but did not congratulate him.
“In the name of France, the French president offered Russia and the Russian people his wishes for success with the modernization of the country on the political, democratic, economic and social fronts,” the Élysée said in a statement.