Peter King

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Rep. Peter King: 'Inexcusable' For Trump To Give Russia Pass On Election Meddling

July 16, 2018 - 7:46 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- U.S. Rep. Peter King on Monday said it was “inexcusable” for President Donald Trump to give Russia a free pass when it comes to meddling in the 2016 election.

King’s remarks came after Trump continued his attacks on the intelligence community after meeting face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump said he and Putin "spent a great deal of time" discussing allegations of Russian election meddling as they met for several hours Monday. But Trump did not strongly condemn the interference efforts, which U.S. intelligence agencies insist did occur, including hacking of Democratic emails, the subject of last week's indictment of 12 Russians.

Trump said, as he has countless times, that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and the Russians in 2016. Putin, as always, denied all.

King (R-New York) was one of numerous lawmakers who said Trump was off the mark. King told WCBS 880's Joe Avellar and Mack Rosenberg he “totally disagreed” with the president on the idea that the Russians did not meddle in the election.

“The fact is there is overwhelming evidence of interference and meddling by Russia in the election. This was not just the conclusion of the intelligence community. It was also the conclusion of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the director of national intelligence – basically everyone who’s looked at this,” he said. “And the president doesn’t help himself.”

King said he does not believe there is evidence that Trump campaign colluded with Russia to further his campaign. But he said that is a different question from whether the Russians meddled in the 2016 race at all.

“There is definite, definite, overwhelming evidence that Russia did interfere in the election, and they started this before Donald Trump was even a candidate. For the president to be giving Vladimir Putin a free pass on this is just inexcusable,” he said.

John O. Brennan, who ran the CIA under President Obama, called Trump's comments at the press conference "nothing short of treasonous."

"Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous," Brennan tweeted. "Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???"

King said he does not pay any attention to Brennan, saying Brennan “has a very poor record as a CIA director.”

But King did say Trump is conflating the question of his campaign colluding with Russia with Russian interference more broadly.

“He just confuses the two. He puts them together, and he said this in one way or another in the past, and it’s just wrong,” King said. “And he’s got to realize that he’s got to make a distinction between the collusion investigation and the investigation of Russian interference in the campaign. All his own people – Dan Coates – he’s a Republican former senator, he’s the director of national intelligence. I just think the president has dug in, and because he’s amounting this to the validity of his election, he’s going to be denying everything. And by doing that, he undercuts his whole case.”

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)