Trump rages against media in defense of congratulatory call to Putin

  • President Trump says the media is wrong to criticize him for congratulating Vladimir Putin after his victory in the recent Russian presidential election.
  • Trump tweets that the Kremlin can help solve a host of international problems — "even the coming Arms Race."
  • He adds that his predecessor didn't have the "smarts," the "energy" or the "chemistry" to forge a strong relationship with Russia.

President Donald Trump defended his congratulatory phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a pair of bellicose tweets Wednesday.

In the Twitter messages — the president's second social media salvo of the day — Trump blasted the media, whom he said "wanted me to excoriate" Putin.

"They are wrong!" Trump said, asserting that the Kremlin can help solve a host of international problems — "even the coming Arms Race."

During a White House meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Trump first acknowledged congratulating Putin in a phone call after his landslide victory in the recent Russian presidential election.

Trump, who had discussed selling U.S. weapons to the Saudi prince, said, "I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory."

"We will probably get together in the not too distant future so that we can discuss ... the arms race," Trump added.

But a Washington Post report Tuesday evening, citing officials familiar with the call, revealed that Trump had been explicitly warned by his senior staff not to congratulate Putin on his re-election.

His national security advisors went as far as to include an all-caps note in his briefing materials for the call that read "DO NOT CONGRATULATE."

When Trump noted that "Obama called him also," in his Wednesday tweet, the president was likely referring to a 2012 call between former President Barack Obama and Putin in which Obama also congratulated the Russian leader.

At the time, Obama was criticized for complimenting the winner of an election viewed by some as being illegitimate. But Obama also addressed areas of disagreement with Putin, including the nations' policies on Syria and missile defense, according to a press release at the time.

In the Tuesday call, however, Trump reportedly chose not to condemn Putin for allegedly poisoning London-based former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, whose assassination attempt has been blamed on Russia by both the U.S. and Britain.

By avoiding the condemnation, Trump ignored the advice of his own policy aides, the Post reported.

Trump suggested that he would be able to forge a stronger relationship with Russia than his predecessors. He said prior presidents were either lacking in "smarts," referencing President George W. Bush, or deficient in "energy or chemistry," pointing to Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.