All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation criticized President Trump for again downplaying and casting doubt on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.

Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been briefed extensively on the matter, said there is no doubt Russia meddled in the election that saw Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton more than 18 months ago.

“The Russians were relentless in their efforts to meddle in the 2016 elections, and their efforts are ongoing. The president’s statements today in Helsinki demonstrate his continued refusal to accept the unanimous conclusions of U.S. intelligence leaders and the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Collins said in a statement. “This position is untenable and at odds with the forceful response this moment demands. Given that we are in an election year, the need to act now to prevent malicious attempts to influence our democracy is urgent.”

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican who represents Maine’s 2nd District and is up for re-election in November, made perhaps his most forceful statement to date about Russia’s interference but did not criticize the president directly.

“While we should seek to improve the situation in Syria and seek cooperation on other issues, we must also recognize the consensus that Russia did try to interfere in our election,” Poliquin said in a statement. “We must consider they may try to do it again. We must all collectively as a nation work to thwart any such attempt so it never happens again.”

Appearing side-by-side at a news conference after their much-anticipated two-hour summit in Helsinki on Monday, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin both cast doubt on what virtually all U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed upon – that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said, adding that the ongoing investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which has coincided with virtually the entirety of his presidency, has been “a disaster for our country.”

Putin, when asked about his country’s attempts to sway the U.S. election, said: “The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including election process.”

Both explanations, though, are refuted by a growing body of evidence, including the indictment last week of 12 Russian intelligence agents – as part of the Mueller investigation – for their alleged role in hacking Democratic emails. And on Monday, federal prosecutors in Washington revealed that they had arrested a 29-year-old woman and accused her of working as a covert Russian agent, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations through her gun-rights contacts.

Sen. Angus King, an independent who frequently sides with Democrats on most issues and who like Collins sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Russia needs to be held accountable.

“The intelligence community has been clear: the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election, and their efforts will continue until we hold them accountable,” King said in a statement. “This summit was not a productive step toward protecting our democracy; the president needs to treat Russian aggression as the serious threat that it is, and stop attacking the legitimate efforts to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, called out the president and also House Republicans for their failure to support more funding for election security.

“Less than 72 hours after a dozen Russian intelligence officials were indicted for hacking our elections, President Trump shamefully stood on the world stage and declared his support for Russia and undermined our nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” Pingree said in a statement. “As an American who remembers doing duck and cover drills in school and the terror of the Cold War, I was appalled to see our president call America’s foreign policy ‘stupid’ and ‘foolish,’ and even more disturbed that he will not accept that Russia launched a coordinated cyberattack on our country. And we have every reason to believe Vladimir Putin will do so again.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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