Members of Maine’s congressional delegation criticized President Trump on Monday after his much-anticipated summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during which Trump again downplayed Russia’s role in interfering with the 2016 election.

Appearing side-by-side at a press conference following their closed two-hour meeting, Trump and Putin both cast doubt on what virtually all intelligence agencies have agreed upon — that Russia meddled in the election that saw Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton more than 18 months ago.

“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 Robert Mueller, which has lasted virtually the entirety of his presidency has been, “a disaster for our country.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference after the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

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

Republican Bruce Poliquin, who represents Maine’s 2nd Congressional district and is up for reelection in November, made perhaps his most forceful statement to date about the Russian allegations.

“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.”

Sen. Susan Collins, also a Republican who has criticized Trump before, was even more critical.

“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.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent who frequently sides with Democrats on most issues, agreed.

“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.”

Monday’s summit between Trump and Putin came just three days after 12 Russian intelligence were indicted, as part of the Mueller investigation, for their alleged role in hacking Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election.

U.S. 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.”

This story will be updated.


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