The real problem for Donald Trump in the 'DO NOT CONGRATULATE' story

Frederick Owens
March 22, 2018

President Donald Trump was infuriated after it quickly leaked that he had been directly instructed by his national security advisers in briefing materials not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory during their call Tuesday morning, a source familiar with the President's thinking said.

In a Wednesday afternoon tweet, Trump says, "Getting along with Russian Federation (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing". They then discussed North Korean issues and the situation in Syria. This feels like a purposeful leak at the highest levels of presumably the national security apparatus created to publicly embarrass the President. The U.S. president did not even mention it.

But, the president's National Security Council had warned him not to congratulate Putin on the call.

Why? Because there is clearly a belief among some (many?) of Trump's advisers that the only way to really get your point across is to put it into the papers and on cable TV.

Many others chose to poke fun at the situation by recalling other situations in which congratulations would definitely not be in order, considering what happens next.

They also instructed him to condemn Putin for the chemical attack on a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom, which both the USA and United Kingdom said was ordered by the Kremlin. He adds that President George W. Bush did not have the "smarts" to work with Putin, and says Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "didn't have the energy or chemistry" with the Russian leader.

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio didn't think much of the president's call but objected more to the reports that he was advised not to congratulate Putin.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said it's "almost beyond comprehension" why a state actor would deploy such a risky substance in a public place in a foreign country where others could be exposed.

"The timing [of the attack in Salisbury] is probably more closely connected with the recent election in Russian Federation", he said.

Trump's overture to Putin was criticized by top senators in his own Republican party, who called Sunday's election a sham. "What he's done in London poisoning people with nerve gas that's a criminal activity". Sanders insisted that the administration has scolded Putin at the appropriate times.

McCain said the president had "insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election".

Last month, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three organizations on charges of interfering in the election. "At the same time, we will continue to be tough with them".

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