President Donald Trump said Tuesday he likely will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin soon to discuss a range of issues — but the Kremlin’s efforts to tinker with U.S. elections did not make his list of possible topics, even as Republican and Democratic senators urged vigilance against Russian attacks.
Trump said that summit likely would occur “in the not too distant future.” Among the topics: an arms race the American president said is “is getting out of control.”
“We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have,” Trump said of the U.S. military. Also on the potential agenda for the potential meeting: the situations in Ukraine and North Korea.
“So I think we’ll probably be seeing President Putin in the not too distant future,” Trump said following a phone call during which he said he congratulated Putin on his re-election win on Sunday.
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Notably, Trump did not mention Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election nor an ongoing cyber attack on the American energy sector that senior officials revealed late last week.
But on Capitol Hill, a group of Republicans and Democrats issued a blunt assessment about the Kremlin’s actions.
Flanked by other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C. said the panel’s probe of Russian election meddling is clear that Kremlin was looking to find weaknesses in the U.S. election systems and targeted 21 states for penetration.
A new committee report recommends Congress pass legislation to provide more money for states to beef up the security of their election computer networks. The report also recommends that states take steps to “replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.”
The Intelligence chairman said he hopes that the coming fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill will include additional funding to assist states with election security.
From another GOP corner, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain of Arizona had no patience for the president’s reaching out to Putin.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime,” McCain said in a statement.
Gopal Ratham contributed to this report.