Trump Congratulates Putin on Reelection Victory Days After Announcing New Russia Sanctions

Hugh Fox
March 27, 2018

Still, given that Trump's relationship with Russian Federation has been a source of skepticism throughout his tenure as president - and considering the ongoing investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation - the phone call is another reminder of the president's friendly attitude toward Putin.

Russian electoral officials have officially declared incumbent President Vladimir Putin the victor of last Sunday's election.

Advocates of closer ties between the United States and Russia also defended Trump's decision to dictate his own meeting with the Russian leader as well within his prerogative.

It comes as Trump and White House officials are said to be fuming over a leak of Trump's briefing materials for the Tuesday call, in which aides warned Trump against congratulating Putin. Besides, discussing the "undesirable" effect of the arms race, the two leaders also exchanged views on North Korea and Syria.

Referring to his immediate three predecessors in office, Trump said that George W. Bush didn't have the "smarts" to get along with the Russians, and that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton "didn't have the energy or the chemistry". "Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal", a senior White House official told ABC.

His overture to Mr Putin has drawn heavy fire by critics who called Sunday's election rigged.

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The White House said in an official statement Wednesday: "If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the President's briefing papers".

President Vladimir Putin addresses the crowd during a rally and a concert celebrating the fourth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, March 18, 2018. National security adviser H.R. McMaster has been known to join Trump in the residence during these calls, and was present during his Tuesday morning call with Putin. Putin's most prominent opponent wasn't on the ballot, and the Associated Press reported on voting irregularities.

President Trump ignoring an explicit warning from adviserson a tricky foreign policy topic is nothing new - but on Tuesday, Trump took it to a new level in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that aides had included a section in Trump's briefing materials for the call stating in all-caps: "DO NOT CONGRATULATE".

"The presidents spoke in favor of developing a practical interaction in various areas, including the issues of strategic stability and combating global terrorism".

The report said it wasn't clear whether Trump had read the briefing materials.

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Another White House official didn't dispute to CNN Tuesday the language on the notes provided by members of Trump's National Security Council, but said Trump didn't read or see the notecard.

At the State Department this week, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it was "no surprise" that Putin was re-elected, adding that some people were paid to turn out to vote and opposition leaders were intimidated or jailed.

"An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections". McCain's Arizona colleague, Sen. Trump also said he and Putin might meet "in the not too distant future" to discuss the arms race and other matters.

"We want to continue to have dialogue with Russian Federation, continue to talk about some of the shared interests we have, whether it is North Korea, Iran, "White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a briefing following the president's phone call".

Putin said that the country needs to make a "real breakthrough" in many spheres and move to encourage economic growth, raise living standards, modernize health care, revive the infrastructure and solve environmental and other problems.

The Sunday election came amid accusations that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent in Britain, and that its internet trolls had waged an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 US presidential election.

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