U.S. Sen. John McCain unleashed a blistering attack on President Donald Trump Monday for his “naiveté” and “egotism,” calling Trump’s remarks at a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir Putin “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
McCain, who has frequently sparred with Trump, delivered some of his harshest criticism of the U.S. president to date after Trump asserted he trusts Putin when he says Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s comments came three days after his own Justice Department indicted 12 Russian military intelligence operatives and accused them of engaging in a sustained effort to hack the computer networks of Democratic organizations and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Arizona’s junior senator, Republican Jeff Flake, also blasted Trump for downplaying Russia’s involvement in election meddling. On Twitter, Flake, who isn’t seeking re-election, wrote:
“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.”
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In a statement from his home in Cornville, where he has been convalescing from the effects of treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer, McCain wrote:
“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.
“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. “These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”
Photo: Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain, foreground, and Jeff Flake in 2014 by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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