President Donald Trump's national-security advisers reportedly gave him two sets of instructions on Tuesday: "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election victory, and condemn Russia for the nerve-agent attack on a former Russian spy in the UK.
Asked about McCain's criticism, Sanders noted that the leaders of France and Germany also called Putin this week and pointed to former president Barack Obama, who congratulated Putin on an election victory in 2012.
John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and has pressed the Trump administration to respond aggressively to Russia's interference in the US presidential election. Trump has often refrained from outright condemnation of Russian Federation and has mostly refused to comment on claims that the country tried to influence the last presidential election.
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Trump's decision to call and congratulate Vladimir Putin is drawing plenty of controversy, especially amid allegations that the Russian election was anything but free and open.
The White House declined to say if the Trump administration believed the Russian election was free and fair.
In a statement about the call between the two leaders, the Kremlin described diplomatic problems facing Russian Federation and the US and confirmed Putin's intent to meet with Trump. She also cited a preliminary report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that said Russia's election took place in an overly controlled environment that lacked an even playing field for all contenders.
"The leaders spoke out in favor of developing practical cooperation in various spheres including the issues of ensuring strategic stability and the fight against worldwide terrorism", the statement added.
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Apart from that, the two leaders "expressed satisfaction over the reduction of tension around the Korean Peninsula and stressed the necessity to continue consistent efforts to resolve the situation by peaceful, diplomatic means", wrote TASS. Relations between the two countries instead have remained tense amid the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election and the investigations of whether there was collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. He has also spoken about the need to avoid another arms race, despite using his pre-election address to showcase new Russian arms. Russian Federation has denied the accusation.
Trump and Putin last met in Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Putin received calls from a number of other foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Trump has said there was no collusion between his presidential campaign and Russians.
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