MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen is distancing himself from President Donald Trump following his meeting in Finland with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which the congressman called “dangerous” and “embarrassing.”
In a tweet Monday, Paulsen criticized the president for taking the Kremlin’s word on election meddling over that of the U.S. intelligence community.
“President Trump’s performance in Helsinki was embarrassing,” Paulsen wrote, adding: “It’s clear they meddled in our elections, and they should be held accountable for it.”
President Trump's performance in Helsinki was embarrassing. An American President taking the side of a Russian dictator over American intelligence agencies is dangerous. It’s clear they meddled in our elections, and they should be held accountable for it.
— Rep. Erik Paulsen (@RepErikPaulsen) July 16, 2018
On Monday, Trump stood next to Putin, telling reporters that he didn’t “see any reason why” Russia would interfere in American democracy and said he had confidence in Putin’s “strong and powerful” denial of meddling in the 2016 election.
Paulsen’s criticism of Trump comes as he faces a challenge in November for Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District.
DFLer Dean Phillips, heir to the Phillips Distilling fortune, is running an aggressive campaign against the five-term Republican in a district that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Following the Helsinki summit, Paulsen was one of several Republicans to criticize Trump’s positioning toward Russia. Others included Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” Ryan said in a statement Monday afternoon, adding: “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”
Meanwhile, at least one prominent Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, defended Trump, applauding him for being willing to speak to adversaries.
“Yes, the vast majority of the foreign policy community, the bipartisan consensus said you shouldn’t meet with Putin,” Paul told CBS This Morning. “They also said he shouldn’t meet with Kim [Jong-Un] and this is an extraordinary thing about President Trump that should be lauded and not belittled is that he is willing to meet with adversaries to try to prevent us from having World War 3.”