Journalists and Trump critics flooded Twitter with sarcastic remarks, registering their disgust at the news, using the benign remarks as more evidence of his alleged (by some) collusion with the Russian state.
CNN’s national security reporter Zachary Cohen pointed out that both Kim Jong-un and Trump had now congratulated Putin, in an apparent effort to cast Kim and Trump in the same light for the crime of extending congratulations which, in reality, is fairly standard diplomatic protocol.
Both Trump and Kim Jong Un have now congratulated Putin on his election win.
— Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN) March 20, 2018
Daily Beast reporter Adam Rawnsley, also miffed by Trump’s words of congratulations to the Russian leader, used the occasion to bring up the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK, accusing Russia of using a “weapon of mass destruction” on British soil, even though there’s no evidence to prove that.
Trump 'congratulated' Putin on his electoral victory just days after the UK concluded that Russian intelligence tried to murder two people and hospitalized a policeman with the use of a weapon of mass destruction on British soil. https://t.co/tzJMeZWFHM
— Adam Rawnsley (@arawnsley) March 20, 2018
Senator John McCain, who once called Russia “a gas station masquerading as a country” was widely quoted by the media for a tweet in which he accused Trump of insulting “every Russian citizen” by congratulating 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. https://t.co/lcQTBi7CA1
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 20, 2018
Something which escaped the attention of Zachary Cohen and others, however, was that former President Barack Obama also congratulated Putin on his victory in 2012.
But it didn’t end on Twitter. At the White House briefing which followed Trump’s comments, press secretary Sarah Sanders was immediately inundated with questions about Russia. In fact, the first six questions were about Trump’s comments. It’s lucky there’s nothing else important going on in Washington DC this week. Like, the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince, or the looming government shutdown.
Q: Does the White House believe the election in Russia was free and fair?
Sanders: "We're focused on our elections, we don't get to dictate how other countries operate" pic.twitter.com/tU2IU5uoe5
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 20, 2018
It wasn’t all shock and outrage, however. Some took the more sober approach of pointing out that Trump’s comments were nothing out of the ordinary.
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