Updated July 17 at 11 a.m.
Indiana lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say President Donald Trump needs to hold Russia accountable for alleged interference in the 2016 election.
As NPR reports, in a remarkable press conference Monday, Trump did not attempt to contradict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Moscow interfered:
Trump, who said he had great confidence in the U.S. intelligence community, said all he could do was ask Putin about Russia’s actions and pointed reporters to what he called Putin’s “strong and powerful” denials.
Trump also attacked Democrats, the FBI and Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller at the conclusion of his hours-long summit with Russian leaders in Helsinki.
President Trump Holds a Joint Press Conference with the President of the Russian Federation https://t.co/lwMZX6vxGZ— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 16, 2018
U.S. intelligence officials are in agreement that Russia interfered in the 2016 election using a wide array of methods, including but not limited to hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails, breaking into American voting infrastructure and launching a sprawling misinformation campaign.
In a statement after the press conference Monday, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former senator from Indiana, said his role is provide the President and policymakers with “the best information and fact-based assessments possible.”
“We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Coats said in the statement.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “we must deal with Moscow from a position of strength and unity.”
“I have no reason to doubt the clear conclusions of the intelligence community when it comes to Moscow’s attempts to undermine our democracy,” Young said in a statement. “When it comes to defending our democratic institutions against foreign subversion and meddling, we are Americans—not Republicans or Democrats.”
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Fort Wayne) said in a statement that Russia is “not our friend.”
“Vladimir Putin’s goal is to destabilize America and reduce our global leadership role,” Banks said. “We need to hold Russia accountable for its aggression and make it clear that America will protect our democratic institutions.”
Banks also urged Trump to take Coats’ warnings seriously.
“I want President Trump’s diplomatic efforts to be successful, but I’ll take the word of a Hoosier statesman over Vladimir Putin any day,” Banks said.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) decried Trump’s meeting with Putin, calling it a “setback for American national security.”
“When given the chance to stand up for our country and its security interests, President Trump instead emboldened President Putin and disregarded the consensus conclusion of the hard-working and patriotic Americans in the intelligence community, including Director of National Intelligence and fellow Hoosier Dan Coats,” Donnelly said in a statement. “We must not tolerate efforts by Russia or other actors that disrupt our democracy or undermine our interests around the globe.”
Our @POTUS is now on his way home from a historic trip to Europe. And the truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Trump stands without apology as the leader of the free world. pic.twitter.com/rjnCd7xpls— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) July 16, 2018
Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indianapolis), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the summit “shocking.”
“President Trump said that he does not see a reason why Russia would have meddled in the election,” Carson said in a statement. “This is not a one-time misstatement. This is the culmination of years of praise and admiration for the Russian dictator. It’s time for all Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to condemn the President’s illogical affinity for Russia and stand on the side of evidence. Russia is not our ally and it is responsible for attacking our democracy.”
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) said she believes Russia sought to “undermine Americans’ faith in our government and electoral process.”
“I am confident our intelligence community, in large part led by fellow Hoosier Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, has provided and will continue to provide reliable and trustworthy assessments on the threats facing our nation, and believe their credible claims of Russia’s involvement in our 2016 presidential election,” Brooks said in a statement. “Russia’s repeated aggressions demonstrate they do not consider the United States worthy of respect. It is important we set the record straight and hold Russia accountable for their manipulative actions meddling in our elections.”
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) said it is “undeniable” that Russia interfered in the election.
“Russia is not our ally, and Vladimir Putin is not our friend,” Walorski said in a statement. “America must continue to stand strong against Putin’s destabilizing actions and prevent further attacks on our country.”
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Newburgh) said he has extreme confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies and in Coats’ leadership.
“The Russian government is actively working against the United States and our interests both at home and abroad at levels not seen since the days of the Cold War,” Bucshon said in a statement. “It is absolutely critical that we protect our democracy and the citizens of the United States in the face of Russian aggression.”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for President in 2020, strongly condemned Trump’s remarks on Twitter, saying that he should resign.
Today, friends of mine are risking their lives to serve the US Intelligence Community, as I once did. For the US president to say they are no more credible than the hostile foreign dictator standing next to him is a national security disaster. He must resign.— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) July 16, 2018
In remarks at the Hudson Institute on Friday, Coats warned that Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor attacking digital infrastructure in the U.S.
“And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy,” Coats said.
Coats also warned that the U.S. is at a “critical point” in regards to Russian cyber attacks.
“It was in the months prior to September, 2001 when … the ‘system was blinking red.'” Coats said. “Here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again.”
Coats said attacks against digital infrastructure in the U.S. occur every day, and that the worst offenders are Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
“In regards to the upcoming midterm elections,” Coats said, “we are not yet seeing the kind of electoral interference in specific states and in voter databases that we experienced in 2016, however we fully realize that we are just one click of the keyboard away from a similar situation repeating itself.”
Democratic leaders had been calling for Trump to cancel his summit with Putin after Mueller indicted the 12 Russians in connection with the DNC hack.