Leading Democratic lawmakers in both houses of Congress blasted President Donald Trump for failing to condemn remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin suggesting Jews and other minority groups were responsible for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
In an interview broadcast on NBC News over the weekend, Putin said that perhaps Russian nationals from different ethnic minority groups interfered in the election:
“Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship or a green card, maybe the US paid them for this. How can you know that? I do not know, either.”
Days after Putin’s anti-Semitic interview comments aired, there was still no rebuke from President Trump.
In stark contrast to Trump’s silence, Putin’s remarks drew swift condemnation from many Democratic lawmakers, US Jewish groups and Israeli politicians.
“[Putin] speaks to anti-Semitic tropes that have spurred intolerance and ethnic violence for centuries, and it is disturbing that this type of anti-Semitism has seen a recent resurgence among populist, far-right leaders around the world,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), according to the New York Times. “That President Trump has failed to condemn Putin’s statement, just as he equivocated on Charlottesville, undermines America’s moral responsibility to combat the kind of racism and anti-Semitism perniciously re-emerging today.”
“President Putin suggesting that Russian Federation minorities, be they Ukrainian, Tatar, or Jewish, were behind US election meddling is eerily reminiscent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the American Jewish Committee tweeted, referring to a rabidly anti-Semitic book and world domination conspiracy theory published in Russia over a century ago.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) were joined by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY), the ranking Democrats on the respective Senate and House judiciary committees, in a letter blasting Trump and calling on the president to utilize “all available resources” to extradite the 13 Russian nationals charged last month by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in connection with interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
“Ensuring these Russian nationals stand trial in the United States is imperative for deterring Russia from future attacks on our democracy and would be a signal to those who seek to meddle with our election that such actions are not without consequences,” the letter said.
Ron Klein, chair of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), issued a statementdemanding “that the White House make it clear to Putin and the Russian government that such bigotry is abhorrent to the United States and its government.”
“Trump’s blind-spot for anti-Semitism is a recurrent problem, and one that imperils our Jewish community, as it faces the escalation of hate crimes and prejudice,” Klein added.
The president has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism for years, and has been blamed for fostering an atmosphere in which white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other Jew haters have been increasingly emboldened to carry out violent acts. According to Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the nation’s preeminent group dedicated to monitoring anti-Semitic bigotry, anti-Semitic incidents soared 60 percent during the first year of Trump’s presidency, the highest single-year increase ever recorded.
In addition to failing to rebuke anti-Semites — including the Ku Klux Klan and former KKK leader David Duke, Trump has also been unwilling to criticize Putin. This, despite consensus among US intelligence agencies that Russia indeed meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and a warning from his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, that Moscow continues to interfere going into the 2018 midterms.
In the latest eyebrow-raising incident, Trump has failed to denounce Russia after UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in an official statement that it is “highly likely” that Moscow was behind the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who were attacked with a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4.
“Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get in the hands of others,” May said.
While White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the attempted assassination “an outrage” and vowed to “stand by our closest ally,” she would not blame Russia when pressed on the issue.
“Right now, we are standing with our UK ally,” Sanders said at her Monday press briefing. “I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that and we’re going to continue to work with the UK and we certainly stand with them throughout this process.”
Trump’s unwillingness to criticize Putin — instead, the president has repeatedly praised the tremendously corrupt and increasingly authoritarian ruler — has generated much speculation that the Russian leader has compromising information about the president. When asked at a weekend event in India whether Putin and the Russians “have something” on Trump, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton assured the audience that “we’ll find out.”
”Follow the money,” Clinton urged, likely referring to allegations of Trump-Russia money laundering, questionable real estate deals involving Russians including an oligarch closely linked to Putin, offshore banking operations and Russian money funding US conservative causes via the National Rifle Association (NRA).