A wave of condemnation immediately followed, with lawmakers calling Republican Trump “weak” and “cowardly,” while Senator John McCain said the summit was “a tragic mistake.” The war hero and former Republican presidential nominee, a frequent critic of the president, said Trump “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.”
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a Republican and a Trump appointee, in an unusual statement responding to Trump’s remarks, stood by the U.S. agencies.
“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” Coats said.
On his way home, Trump insisted in a post on Twitter that he has “GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.”
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, said Russia undoubtedly interfered in the 2016 election.
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” said Ryan in a statement.
Putin was re-elected in a disputed election in March with the main opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from running on what he says was a pretext.