Amid Bipartisan Anger, Trump Defends His Congratulatory Call to Putin

His justification follows a report that the president had specific instructions not to do it.

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President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection victory on Sunday—an outcome most of the international community had deemed a foregone conclusion—and continued his longstanding view that a cozy relationship with the Kremlin was more favorable to the United States than a negative one.

The justification comes amid mounting frustration by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over the congratulatory phone call. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday slammed the conversation and said that he would have personally refused to talk to a “criminal” such as Putin. On Wednesday, Trump portrayed the criticism as just another media-generated plot to force him to unfairly punish Putin.

But even the White House staff was not enthusiastic about the call. According to the Washington Post, the president ignored specific briefing instructions from his own aides not to congratulate Putin. The fast-moving leak has reportedly infuriated White House chief of staff John Kelly.

The Trump administration on Wednesday attempted to convince the Senate Judiciary committee that it was taking steps to ensure Russia will not be able to interfere in upcoming US elections, but lawmakers did not seem convinced. “I hear no sense of urgency to really get on top of this issue,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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