President Donald J. Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday elicited strong reactions from local politicians and those challenging them for office.
The Trump-Putin meeting, which culminated in a press conference with the two leaders, caused some elected officials to cross party lines.
“As I have said many times before, but worth repeating today, I believe Russia is an adversary, and we must continue to work with our allies to counter Russia’s influence around the world,” said U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, in a post on Twitter. “I disagree with the president’s statement today.”
Stefanik, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and an Albany Academy for Girls graduate, went on to voice support for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election.
“Russia has a track record of meddling in elections — not only ours in 2016, but around the world,” Stefanik tweeted. “I support the Mueller investigation in getting to the apolitical truth.”
Her opponent for the 21st Congressional District in the fall election, Tedra Cobb D-Canton, issued a one-sentence statement that did not mention President Trump.
“I trust that the American delegation is doing all it can to advance U.S. interests and national security while in Helsinki,” Cobb said.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, who has been critical of President Trump’s relationship with Russia from the outset, said that Monday was “a sad day for America,” condemning the president for refusing to confront Putin on election meddling.
“For reasons he desperately needs to explain to the American people, President Trump refuses to acknowledge the clear and indisputable reality that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a foreign campaign to sabotage U.S. elections,” Tonko said in a prepared statement. “When the president refuses to stand up to bullies like Vladimir Putin and defend American interests abroad, he is all but inviting future foreign interference in our democracy.”
Republican Joe Vitollo, who is challenging Tonko in the 20th Congressional District, took exception to Stefanik’s statement on the summit.
Vitollo was the only candidate to respond to inquiries Monday without issuing a written statement.
“Honestly, I thought it was great,” the Coeymans resident said of the summit. “I totally disagree with Elise Stefanik. I don’t thing Mueller is apolitical at all. I think he has an agenda.”
In the hotly-contested 19th Congressional District — to the South in the Hudson Valley and Catskills — both incumbent U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-Kinderhook, and challenger Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, criticized the president’s performance in Helsinki.
“I cannot see how it is in America’s interest to blame fellow Americans for a hostile foreign power’s attack on our democracy,” Delgado tweeted. “Nor can I appreciate the need to privately meet with the leader of that foreign power while it continues to attack the integrity of our election system.”
At one point, Delgado asked Faso on Twitter if he would condemn the president’s remarks. Faso subsequently released a statement via email and later on his official Twitter account, @RepJohnFaso.
“I do not agree with the approach taken by President Trump at today’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin is no friend to the United States,” Faso said. “There is no credibility to Putin’s denials, especially in light of the public evidence and our own U.S. intelligence reports. We know the Russians meddled in our elections, and we must continue our sanctions and diplomatic pressure against Putin’s actions.”
New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, issued statements on the summit, with Schumer holding a press conference Monday afternoon to implore Republican leaders to increase sanctions on Russia and hold the president accountable.
“Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump,” Schumer said.
Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jake Lahut at 518-322-2358, [email protected] or @JakeLahut on Twitter