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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."

Last updated on March 20, 2018, at 6:04 p.m. ET

Posted on March 20, 2018, at 4:22 p.m. ET

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.

President Trump: "I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory ... We'll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control."

"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."

An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump 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."

Just now on "@secupp Unfiltered," Senator @tedcruz tells @benfergusonshow, "Putin is very easy to understand. Putin is a KGB thug."

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."

Asked by @kasie about what message it sends for Pres Trump to call Putin to congratulate him, MCCONNELL: "Calling him 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."

Just a remarkable thing for the spokesperson for the "leader of the free world" to say: - Does the WH believe that the election in Russia was free and fair? - We're focused on our elections. We don't get to dictate how other countries operate

Democrats also took a swing at Trump. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said, "Authoritarian leaders don't win elections, they steal them."

Disgraceful that The President of the United States has congratulated Putin on his “victory.” 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.

It took President Trump less than 48 hours to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his election. Yet after 14 months, he still refuses to take any concrete steps to prevent foreign interference in the 2018 elections. #ProtectOurDemocracy

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.

Screenshot / Via

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."

White House

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.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.