GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick had harsh words over the weekend for President Donald Trump’s comments and behavior at a joint news conference last Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a sign that the president’s performance at the Helsinki, Finland, summit could be an enduring political thorn in his side.
“The president was manipulated by Vladimir Putin,” Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican and former FBI counterintelligence agent, said Sunday on NPR. “Vladimir Putin is a master manipulator.”
Fitzpatrick was “frankly sickened by the exchange” between Trump and Putin, he said in the interview.
Fitzpatrick is the second GOP congressman who is a former intelligence agent to condemn Trump for declining to publicly call out Putin for his aggressive foreign policy in military hot zones such as Ukraine and Syria and in the democratic processes of western nations, including the United States.
Rep. Will Hurd, Fitzpatrick’s Republican colleague from Texas who previously worked as a CIA agent, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times criticizing the president for “playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands” by “actively [participating] in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.”
Both Hurd and Fitzpatrick face two of the toughest re-election campaigns of any House Republicans this November in districts where the president is not as popular as in GOP strongholds.
Fitzpatrick has a slight edge in Pennsylvania’s 1st District in the Philadelphia suburbs on the recently redrawn congressional map there. Inside Elections rates his race Tilts Republican.
Hurd and Fitzpatrick have joined their Democratic colleagues on a bill to protect the special counsel probe by Robert S. Mueller III into possible ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
Both issued harsh rebukes to the president for casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence agencies’ consensus agreement that the Russian government, directed by Putin, propagated an extensive influence and disinformation campaign leading up to the 2016 election.
“It needs to be accepted as fact by everybody in our government because we need to respond to that reality and it’s a significant threat. We cannot let that happen again,” Fitzpatrick said of Russian interference in U.S. elections.
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