MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – President Donald Trump is walking back comments he made in Monday’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he “misspoke” when he expressed doubts that Russia had meddled in the 2016 elections.
The controversial comments, made at a joint news conference with Putin in Helsinki, created a storm of criticism – from both Democrats and Republicans.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a strong Trump supporter, called the president’s remarks “the worst mistake of his presidency.”
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted the president, saying he “took the word of the KGB over the men and women of the CIA.”
Minnesota political leaders are mirroring the divide at the national level, with some — but not all — Republicans criticizing the president, even after he walked back his statements on Tuesday.
Democrats, as a whole, are strongly condemning the president for his initial comments, in which he indicated that he did not believe the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies.
Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen offered a scathing assessment on Twitter, writing: “President Trump’s performance in Helsinki was embarrassing. An American President taking the side of a Russian dictator over American intelligence agencies is dangerous.”
Paulsen is also not convinced by the president’s saying that he misspoke.
“The bottom line: Russia is not our ally,” he said. “They are an adversary. They need to be confronted over their hostile actions.”
The Minnesota Republican Party, however, issued a statement supporting the president and so did Republican State Rep. Jim Newberger, who is running against Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“To me, it looks like a D.C.-centered media feeding frenzy,” he said, adding: “I think, overall, he is doing a great job and he has my support.”
In contrast, Klobuchar offered a strong critique.
“When America is the leader of the free world, that means our president has to stand up not just for American democracy but democracies across the world,” she said.
Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, who’s running for governor, challenged Republican candidates for governor to weigh in.
“If you are asking to be the chief executive of this state, there is a responsibility of leadership to clearly articulate this nation’s national security is at risk and this president did nothing to alleviate that,” he said.
WCCO reached out to the two major Republicans in the gubernatorial race: former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.
We did not hear back.
There is also silence from two other Minnesota Republican members of Congress, Tom Emmer and Jason Lewis, both strong Trump supporters.
We reached out to them and also did not hear back.