It’s an “easy, cheap shot” to accuse President Donald Trump of being “compromised by the Russians” following last week’s controversial press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.”
“Well, it’s an easy, cheap shot to say the president’s been compromised by the Russians,” Bossert said. “I think the Russians elected a former KGB agent, and he spends all of his time and their resources squandering it on penny-ante spy tactics to try to get into loser kind of lobbyist pockets and so forth.”
“And this country elected a president that was a former businessman. And as a result, our economy’s doing well, and we spend our time trying to have productive meetings with foreign leaders,” Bossert added.
Aside from those facts, “all the rest of this speculation and smoke is meant to undermine” the president, Bossert insisted. “It’s domestic partisan political concern mixed with some legitimate need to throw our intelligence forces against the prevention of spying and interfering in the United States.”
Trump fielded bipartisan backlash following remarks he made during the press conference alongside Putin in Helsinki, Finland, prompting the president and his officials to issue several corrections throughout the week.
Trump clarified Tuesday that he has “full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies” and has pledged to “repel” any future Russian efforts to interference in U.S. elections.
Bossert insisted that Trump’s private conversation with Putin in Helsinki was “productive,” despite the mainstream media’s predictable narrative and the Russian government’s spin.
“And they didn’t agree on anything, unlike what has been reported by apparently the Russian government in a way to mislead us,” Bossert said. “So President Trump had a productive set of conversations. I think it’s important to continue them.”
Bossert urged Americans to focus on Trump’s tough policies against Russia instead of his gaffes.
“[Trump] speaks in ways that people don’t feel comfortable, but the way he acts is to impose the greatest painful punishments” on Putin and Russia, Bossert said. “That’s a pain that President Putin feels.”
“I think what President Trump ought to continue doing is acting tough and talking in ways that advance the U.S. interest in the Middle East, China and elsewhere around the world,” Bossert concluded. “So if he keeps acting tough … we’ll forgive some of his — some of his comments.”
But other Sunday show guests didn’t agree with Bossert’s assessment. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump should have “challenged” Putin more on the world stage.
“What I saw in Helsinki — at a moment that the president could have challenged President Putin about the reality that his 17 intelligence agencies all unanimously agreed that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, that they are in the midst of doing that as we speak in these elections 108 days away — that was a moment to challenge him, on that, on Ukraine, on what’s happening in Syria,” Menendez said.
“And instead, the president did not show the strength that an American president, I believe, should have shown at that moment,” Menendez said.
The senator also took issue with Trump’s plans to invite Putin to Washington, D.C., in the fall.
“Now we’re going to give [Putin] red carpet treatment and invite him to Washington? To me, that’s beyond comprehension,” Menendez said. “You can speak to adversaries, but at the end of the day, you have to do it in a way in which you challenge them.”
But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he doesn’t “have a problem with the president of the United States’ interacting with the president of the Russian Federation” as long as Trump remains “clear-eyed.”
“They’ve got a lot of nuclear weapons, and so we do need to interact with them. That is separate from the question of whether or not we should be clear-eyed about who Putin is,” Rubio said.
“I don’t have any doubt that President Trump is aware of the things Vladimir Putin has done,” Rubio added. “I’m not sure his rhetoric reflects that, but his policies do.”