WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump has said he and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed setting up an e-security unit, an idea that drew sharp criticism from Republicans who said Moscow could not be trusted after its alleged intervention in the US presidential election in 2016.
In Twitter tweets since his first direct meeting with Putin on Friday, Trump said it was time to work constructively with Moscow, referring to a cease-fire agreement in southwestern Syria that went into effect on Sunday.
“I and Putin discussed the formation of a secure Internet security unit to avoid a breakthrough and many other negative things,” he said after their talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Three Republican senators – Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio and John McCain – criticized the idea in a sharp tone. Graham is an influential Republican senator from South Carolina and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Rubio is a Florida senator and John McCain is from Arizona.
“It is not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s the closest thing,” Graham told US media. “Trump’s apparent willingness to” tolerate and forget “reinforces his determination to pass legislation imposing sanctions on Russia.
“There was no penalty,” McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “Vladimir Putin … has literally escaped punishment after trying to change the outcome of our election.”
“Realism and the process require that we deal with Vladimir Putin but he will never be a reliable ally or a reliable building partner,” Rubio told Twitter.
He added, “Entering a partnership with Putin on an Internet security unit such as the participation of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad in a chemical weapons unit.”