In the wake of a report that he ignored his national security team’s advice not to congratulate Russian president Vladimir Putin on Putin’s recent re-election, President Donald Trump defended the exchange Wednesday.
Trump is right in one regard: According to the archives from former President Barack Obama’s White House, Obama called Putin in 2012 “to congratulate him on his recent victory in the Russian Presidential election.”
However, Russia at the time was not accused of poisoning a Russian ex-spy and his daughter on British soil, nor was the country believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to have interfered in an American election.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with Trump’s call with Putin earlier in the day, that Trump had ignored a plea from national security advisers written in capital letters in briefing materials: “DO NOT CONGRATULATE.” The Post also reported that Trump was prompted in the briefing materials to condemn the poisoning, more advice he did not follow.
Asked Tuesday whether the White House believed Putin’s election was “free and fair” — election observers say they recorded fraud and vote-rigging — press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “in terms of the election there, we’re focused on our elections” and “what we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them how they operate.”