Iowa’s two Republican senators said Monday that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is no friend of the United States and that they had faith in the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that the foreign government meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
President Donald Trump’s comments Monday that cast doubt on that conclusion drew sharp condemnation from Democrats, as well as from a few Republicans. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, for instance, called Trump’s news conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Neither Iowa senator went that far in their comments, but Sen. Chuck Grassley described the news conference as a missed opportunity.
Three days before the Trump-Putin summit, special counsel Robert Mueller III indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Grassley, whose Senate Judicial Committee has investigated Russian interference, said the indictment is serious.
“President Trump missed an opportunity to publicly press President Putin on whether he would agree to extradite the defendants to the United States to answer the allegations in court,” he said in a statement.
A spokesman added, “Sen. Grassley has seen no evidence to contradict the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. ...”
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Sen. Joni Ernst was more measured in her comments, though she said she sides with the intelligence community.
“I have the utmost faith in the U.S. intelligence community and their assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election,” Ernst said in a statement.
She added, “I hope that President Trump, today, delivered a strong message behind closed doors” that Russia will be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine, Syria and in the United States.
Elsewhere in Iowa, Ken Rizer, a Marion Republican who resigned his Iowa House seat this year, said on Facebook he is leaving the GOP because of “the erratic and misguided leadership of the President.”
“I will always be a Reagan conservative, but find no place for such views in Trump’s World. Until the Republican Party recovers its values, my party affiliation will be ‘No Party,’” he wrote.