WNY's Congressional representatives react to Trump remarks at Putin meeting
As one local Congressman put it, a U.S. president has deferred to a corrupt dictator and taken sides against his own people. Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat, was just one of a few lawmakers representing Western New York who had something to say about President Donald Trump's meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin and what was said about Russian involvement in the 2016 election. But Republican lawmakers from the region joined Trump in calling for an end to the investigation of that involvement.
Following gheir closed-door meeting in Helsinki, Finland, Trump and Putin emerged to meet with media. Putin openly admitted he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential election but insisted he took no action to achieve that result.
Trump, meanwhile, openly questioned U.S. intelligence agencies' positions that the Russians meddled in the 2016 race.
Higgins, whose district includes portions of Erie and Niagara Counties, says Trump's behavior has been erratic at best. He says in the year and a half Trump has been in office, the president has caused considerable damage to foreign relations, warming up to people like Putin while going on offensives against leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Higgins now wonders whether the Russian leader may indeed have something on Trump, as some critics of the president have suggested.
"To have a president coddling Putin, as he is, would clearly indicate that he's got something to hide, and perhaps Putin has something on him," he said. "I never thought that necessarily, as strong as I do today. That's the only way to explain this very erratic and irrational behavior."
WBFO reached out to the offices of Congressmen Chris Collins and Tom Reed, both Republicans representing Western New York districts, for their thoughts. Both replied with written statements.
Collins' statement reads: "I share President Trump’s continued frustration as the left continues to try to nullify the 2016 Presidential election with claims of Russian interference. The fact is, any Russian meddling did not make a difference in the election and there was no campaign collusion. It’s time the Mueller investigation comes to a conclusion. I also urge the President to work with Congress to ensure any future Russian attempts to influence our elections are stopped at our border. Unfortunately, this is something the Obama administration failed to do."
Reed's statement reads: "Russia is not our friend, and I have no doubt they have, and are trying to, meddle in our elections. However, there is no evidence of collusion with any American, and it is time for the Mueller probe to come to a close. By completing the investigation, we will restore faith in our democratic electoral process."
Some prominent Republicans in Washington, however, focused on Trump's remarks and rebuked the president for his statements in Helsinki. Senator John McCain called the joint news conference "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
House Speaker Paul Ryan, meanwhile, defended U.S. intelligence agencies' findings on Russian interference with the 2016 election, noting that the House Committee on Intelligence reached the same conclusion.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat, hosted a news conference at which he stated that Trump has put the interests of Russia over his own people. He also urged Republicans who have otherwise supported the president to join with Democrats against the administration.
"If we wait much longer, our global alliances will fracture. The institutions that America created in the wake of World War II will crumble," Schumer said. "Our allies will consider abandoning us, possibly for China and others, and Putin's Russia will emerge stronger for it. That's what he wants. That's what President Trump, inexplicably, is helping him do."
Schumer acknowledged Ryan's remarks as part of his challenge to Republicans to join with Democrats on the issue.
"Our Republican colleagues can take steps right now to push back against this slippery slope the president has put us on," Schumer said. "Speaker Ryan today said nice things. But talk is not enough. We need action, bipartisan strong action. We need our Republican colleagues to stand up for the good of this country."