President Donald Trump is pushing back hard after being criticized for congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election in a phone call Tuesday.
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The president lashed out on Twitter — first taking aim at the news media.
"I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.......," Trump tweeted.
I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
Trump then sent a second tweet insulting former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton for, he said, not getting along better with Russia.
"They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race. Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!" Trump tweeted.
.....They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race. Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
Trump's tweets came after a White House official said the West Wing is "stunned" by reporting Monday night that Trump did not follow the advice of his aides to not congratulate Putin during the call Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that Trump did not heed the advice of his national security advisers to not congratulate Putin and to condemn the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in the UK. "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" was written in all capital letters on briefing materials provided to Trump by advisers, the Washington Post reported. The report said it wasn't clear whether Trump had read the briefing materials.
"If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the president's briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal," a senior White House official told ABC.
An administration official confirmed reports that chief of staff John Kelly is "frustrated and deeply disappointed" by the leak of the president's briefing notes for his call with Putin.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill said whoever made the stunning leak should be fired — or simply quit.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that he didn't like that Trump missed an opportunity to challenge Putin.
"But you know what I like even less? That there's somebody close to him leaking this stuff. If you don't like the guy then quit. But to be this duplicative and continue to leak things out, it's dangerous," Rubio said. "If you don't like working for the president, you should resign your job."
Sen. Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said the leaker ought to be fired.
"I think that's unconscionable. I think whoever did that ought to be fired immediately and I think they ought to be prosecuted," said Kennedy. "I think that's absolutely unconscionable. It's disgraceful to work for a person, give him advice, if he chooses not to follow that advice, to go try to justify your advice by leaking the advice."
One administration official told ABC News their impression of what Trump said to Putin in offering his congratulations was that it was an underhanded insult. The official said Trump congratulated Putin on his big victory over tough competition.
But that's not how Trump described the call when he — impromptu — told reporters gathered in the Oval Office Tuesday that he spoke to Putin in the morning and congratulated him on his victory. Trump did not, however, discuss election meddling or Russia's use of a nerve agent on a former spy, two glaring omissions from the call.
When White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked Tuesday why Trump didn't mention election meddling to Putin, she told reporters, "We speak about it and continue in ways, steps forward to make sure it never happens again."
The White House has tried to crack down on leaks in the past, but despite measures like taking away personal cell phones, the leaks have continued.
"There have been more leaks coming out of this White House, the only thing in coming out in greater volume are people resigning," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.