President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had no reason to believe that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, a statement that was met with swift condemnation by officials across the country. Politicians from Long Island were no exception.
“The President has thrown America’s intelligence community under the bus and sided with the Russians while on foreign soil,” said Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) in a statement.
Trump made the remarks in Helsinki, shortly after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Friday before, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian nationals for hacking into the Democratic Party’s email servers and state voting machines two years ago, in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The FBI’s story was contradicted by the Russian government, which has claimed innocence throughout the entire investigation. When asked who he believed during Monday’s press conference — the FBI or Russia — Trump sided with the Russian President Valadamir Putin.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said, according to a BBC report.
Reactions from across the political spectrum came pouring in almost immediately. Long Island’s Democratic representatives slammed the move.
“I cannot understand why the President continues to have a blind spot with the Russians and Putin,” Suozzi continued. “Something is seriously wrong.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said that Trump’s response was tantamount to a betrayal.
“The President does not care that Russia attacked our democracy. And that’s a total betrayal to our country,” she wrote on Twitter.
Both of New York’s senators took to Twitter as well to criticize the former Manhattan mogul.
“For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, and American intelligence agencies is thoughtless, dangerous, and weak,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also took to Twitter to say Trump had abdicated his national security responsibilities.
We just witnessed the President of the United States abdicate his national security responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief. When he was given the chance to hold Putin accountable and condemn Russia's interference in our elections, he refused.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) July 16, 2018
Democrats were joined in the criticism by many Republicans. Sen. John McCain called Trump’s press conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory” on Twitter. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said Russia was not an ally of the United States.
“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said in a statement.
One of Long Island’s Republicans, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), also announced on Twitter his displeasure with the president’s comments.
“Wrong for President Trump to deny Russian interference in election,” he wrote. “No moral equivalency between U.S. and Russia. Putin is a liar and Russia is an aggressor. No purpose in denying that.”
There was no statement from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), although he did express his support last week for Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russian interference.
“Regardless of whether you are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, Americans must stand united against meddling by foreign adversaries,” he said.
Former politicians also weighed in on Trump’s comments.
Gary Ackerman, a Democrat from Roslyn who served in Congress for two decades, released a statement calling Trump’s press conference a “historic disgrace.”
“In a tremendous collapse and surrender of American leadership, the president of the United States emerges from a private unobserved one-hour one-on-one session in a private room with Russia’s strongman and then demonstrates on the world stage that Trump is Putin’s bitch,” he wrote.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.