Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi were reacting after the two leaders' joint news conference in Helsinki after their face-to-face meeting Monday.
WASHINGTON – The top two Democrats in Congress suggested Monday that President Donald Trump’s performance during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that Russia has damaging information on the U.S. leader.
“President Trump’s weakness in front of Putin was embarrassing, and proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement. “This is a sad day for America, and for all Western democracies that Putin continues to target.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was less direct but raised the same prospect in a statement issued shortly after Trump and Putin concluded a remarkable news conference in Helsinki at the end of a summit that both said included discussion of Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
“A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States?” Schumer said in a statement. “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.”
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During the news conference, Putin again denied any election interference, and Trump cast doubt on the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies to the contrary.
“I don’t see any reason why” Russia would interfere in the election, Trump told reporters, also characterizing the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller as “a disaster for our country.”
Asked whether the Russian government has compromising material on Trump, Putin said he was aware of “rumors” that such material was collected during a 2013 visit by Trump to Moscow but that it was “difficult to imagine” that had occurred.
“When President Trump was at Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow,” Putin said. “I treat President Trump with utmost respect, but back then when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.”
Trump’s 2013 visit came in conjunction with the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned. A dossier compiled by a former British spy contains salacious allegations about Trump’s behavior on the trip, which Trump has denied.
Schumer is scheduled to hold a news conference later Monday afternoon to elaborate on his concerns about Trump’s performance in Helsinki.