HELSINKI, Finland – While President Donald J. Trump disowned his own intelligence agencies on the world stage after siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, North Dakota politicians on both sides of the political aisle condemned him.
“Russia poses a grave threat to our national security and our democracy,” U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp said. “It is absolutely imperative for the morale and standing of our brave law enforcement officers and military who put their lives on the line every day – and for honoring the memory of those who have lost their lives because of Russian influence across the world in Syria, Afghanistan, and many other countries – that the President, at a very minimum, challenge Russia regarding its interference in our election and threats to our democracy.
“There is no gray area here. Top officials in this administration, our intelligence agencies, and the bipartisan U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee have all reached the same conclusion, which is the truth.
“Putin is not a friend or ally of our country and he continues to try to create chaos around the world. Today was a sad and unprecedented day in history – an American president stood with Russia over our own country.”
In an unprecedented break from toeing the Trump line, U.S. Senator John Hoeven echoed Heitkamp’s sentiment, implying that Trump was not strong enough.
“We know Russia meddled in our election based on information from our intelligence agencies,” Hoeven said. “That is not acceptable and we need to make clear to the Putin regime that we will keep our sanctions in place and work with our allies to increase pressure on Russia until its behavior changes. That’s also why we worked to put sanctions on Russia and continue pressing Russia to change its behavior toward Ukraine and Syria.”
Current Congressman Kevin Cramer betrayed the promise he made during Fargo’s Trump “Make America Great Again Rally” by saying he would side with Trump 100 percent of the time.
“For decades Russia has consistently worked to undermine the democratic process in America and other democratic nations,” Cramer said. “I trust the conclusions of the U.S. Intelligence agencies, and the House Intelligence Committee, that Russia interfered in our election by carrying out social media misinformation campaigns and hacking campaign accounts. However, there is no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 Presidential election. We must hold Russia accountable for its hostilities toward the United States and our allies, while maintaining an open dialogue to discuss tough issues.”
Democratic candidate for North Dakota Secretary of State, Joshua Boschee, pointed to the facts that 12 Russians were indicted for hacking and interfering in the 2016 election by the head of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and that the Justice Department announced espionage charges against a Russian woman who tried to broker a Trump and Putin meeting at the same time.
Trump’s decision to side with Russia is bringing politicians from both sides of the aisle together, he said.
“I have never seen a President surrender, capitulate, and humiliate our country in the way that President Trump did today. I am stunned,” Boschee said. “Donald Trump is ignoring the facts that are overwhelmingly agreed upon by our nation's experts. He's recused himself from his national security responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief when he should seize the opportunity to hold Vladimir Putin accountable and condemn Russia’s interference in our elections.”
Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, Mac Schneider, said Trump failed the United States on an unprecedented level.
"American presidents must stand up for America, our democracy, and our institutions, especially when representing our country abroad,” Schneider said. “Yesterday, the President didn’t merely fail in that duty, he took the side of an adversary over the men and women of our intelligence community, key officials in his administration, and the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. An American president siding with a foreign leader who has actively attempted to undermine our democracy is without precedent in the history of our nation.
“Since our country was founded nearly 250 years ago, Americans have set aside our differences and stood shoulder to shoulder when our nation has been threatened by foreign powers. Russia’s actions are a threat to what makes America great. We must face this threat together."
During the press conference in Helsinki, Trump claimed both countries responsible for the political hostility.
“Our relationship has never been worse, however, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that,” Trump said.
When pushed by reporters if Trump would denounce the charges every U.S. intelligence agency is saying Russia at least attempted to interfere with American politics, he turned to “whataboutism,” and decided to take Putin’s word over his own people’s investigative reports.
“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server — haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?
“I’ve been wondering that, I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coates came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.
“Russia state has never interfered and will never interfere in the American internal political process.”
While denying his country interfered in American politics in 2016, or colluded with Trump’s Administration, Putin said the judicial system should decide the validity of the issue, not law enforcement or spy agencies.
“Could you name a single fact that would definitely prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense, just like the president recently mentioned,” Putin said. "After all, I was a intelligence officer myself, and I do know how dossiers are made up. That’s the first thing.
"Now the second thing: I believe that Russia is a democratic state, and I hope you are not denying this right to your own country, you’re not denying that United States is a democracy. Do you believe United States is a democracy? And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of a dispute can only be delivered by a trial, by the court, not by the executive, by the law enforcement... the final say is for the court to deliver."
Trump has a long history of defending Russia. He has stated that Russia should be added back to the Group of Seven, or the G7 economic bloc, has defended Russia’s annexation of Crimea, has blasted NATO during a conference, insulted the prime ministers of Germany, Angela Merkel, England’s Theresa May, badmouthed Canada’s Justin Trudeau, called media outlets fake news when they point out his faults, and now has taken Vladimir Putin’s word over his own intelligence agency.
Putin is a former KGB agent, the main security agency for the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991. He was recruited into the agency in 1975, where he learned intelligence and interrogation techniques at School No. 401 in Saint Petersburg. He was responsible for counter-intelligence and monitoring foreigners, according to Business Insider, and may also have worked with the KGB’s Chief Directorate, which was responsible for crushing political dissidents.
In 1985, Putin was transferred to Dresden, Germany, using the cover of a translator, where analysts say his top job was to recruit top East German Communist Party and Stasi officials, and steal technological secrets. He was a spy during a time when his country was crumbling, which helped shape his world view and according to analysts, instilled his need for revenge against the United States.
After he returned home, Putin went to work for former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and in 1998 was appointed to lead the FSB, the post-Soviet equivalent of the KGB. In 1999, Putin took over Yeltsin’s role, pardoned his predecessor for corruption, and was elected president for the first time in 2000.
Trump defended his stance on Twitter after receiving national criticism.
“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump tweeted. “Our relationship with Russia has never been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the rigged witch hunt.”
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