Trump says he congratulated Putin in call

Trump spoke with Putin after his recent election victory.

March 20, 2018, 12:40 PM

President Trump said Tuesday that he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his recent election victory and said that the two would likely get together in the not too distant future to discuss what he called "the arms race," Ukraine, Syria, and North Korea.

"We had a very good call,' Trump said.

He added that the arms race "is getting out of control. We will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have."

PHOTO: Russian President and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at his campaign headquarters in Moscow on March 18, 2018.
Russian President and Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks at his campaign headquarters in Moscow on March 18, 2018.

While the president said he congratulated Putin on his win, the White House has not explicitly said whether the administration believes the Russian elections were free and fair, with White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley only saying that "we are not surprised by the outcome."

Republican Sen. John McCain said Trump had "insulted" Russians who had been denied a chance to vote.

“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.

Later, at her daily press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the president's handling of the call.

Asked by a reporter whether the White House believes the election in Russia was free and fair, Sanders responded, "Look, in terms of the election, we're focused on our elections."

"We don't get to dictate how our countries operate, " Sanders said. "We do know that Putin has been elected in their country and that's not something that we can dictate to them how they operate. We can only focus on the freeness and fairness of our election, something we 100% fairly support and something we'll do everything we can to protect that bad actors don't have the opportunity to impact them in any way."

Sanders also said Trump did not broach the topic of Russia's meddling in the U.S. 2016 elections.

"I do not believe it came up on that call," Sanders said. "But we speak about it and continue in ways steps forward to make sure it never happens again."

Later in the briefing, Sanders was asked whether the two men discussed Russia's alleged poisoning of a former Russia spy in the UK.

"Did poisoning in the United Kingdom come up in the call?" a reporter asked.

"I don't believe that was discussed in today's call," she said.

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