Politics

Roskam Tells Trump to Speak to Putin More Like Reagan Would

GOP congressman says Trump was ‘very defensive’ in conversation about Helsinki news conference

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., said he confronted President Donald Trump about his news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Peter Roskam said President Donald Trump delivered a “very defensive” response on Tuesday when he confronted the president about siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Roskam was at the White House for a meeting with Trump in which the president walked back his comments from Monday that he saw “no reason why it would be Russia” that interfered in the 2016 election, affirmed that he trusted his intelligence community’s assessment that it was Russia, and then immediately sought to undercut that assessment by saying there “could be other people also — a lot of people out there.”

After the meeting — scheduled by the White House late last week with members of the House Ways and Means Committee to sketch out a plan to lower taxes even further — Roskam said he pulled Trump aside to talk about the power his voice has as the U.S. figurehead, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Roskam said he told Trump about the time he met Natan Sharansky, a leading Jewish figure in the Soviet Union who spent years in prison fighting for Jews to be allowed to emigrate from the country.

Watch: Trump Says He ‘Misspoke’ on Russian Election Meddling

Sharansky told Roskam he was inspired and given hope while in prison by President Ronald Reagan’s speech in which he called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.”

“The point that I made to the president is, that is the voice that the world needs to hear from the president of the United States when interacting with Vladimir Putin,” Roskam told the newspaper.

“Now President Trump in this discussion was very defensive,” Roskam said. “He essentially said it’s not that simple. Today is more complicated and so forth. … That was essentially the nature, that’s the essence of the discussion.”

Roskam, who has mostly defended Trump during the first year and a half of his presidency, issued one of the harsher rebukes from a GOP congressman after Trump’s Helsinki news conference, which he called “an affront to American democracy and the Intelligence Community and a victory for Russian propaganda.”

Other Republicans in the meeting Tuesday appeared hesitant to challenge Trump in person on siding with Putin in Finland.

Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan did not respond to a query from the Detroit Free Press on whether he brought up Trump’s comments at the meeting.

Roskam hails from Illinois’ 6th District, one that Hillary Clinton carried by 7 points in 2016. He faces Democrat Sean Casten in the general election this November which Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Tilts Republican.

Watch: Gohmert Says Russian Election Interference Has Been ‘Going On for 70 Years’

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