WASHINGTON — Several Minnesota Democrats in Congress condemned President Donald Trump's rebuke on Monday of U.S. intelligence investigations into Russian electoral interference as he stood beside Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the state's three U.S. House Republicans stayed silent.
"When asked a direct question today about who he believed, his own military and intelligence community or this dictator of Russia ... he refused to stand up for his own country," Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat, said in an interview. "I think it's just shocking and I didn't think I could be shocked anymore — I think it makes him look weak."
Republican congressmen Jason Lewis and Tom Emmer did not immediately respond to a request from the Star Tribune for interviews or comments on Trump's remarks.
But U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican, tweeted Monday evening that Trump's performance in Helsinski was embarrassing.
"An American president taking the side of a Russian dictator over American intelligence agencies is dangerous," he wrote. "It's clear they meddled in our elections, and they should be held accountable for it."
Some top Republican leaders in Congress did voice continued concern about Russian electoral meddling, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, though there was no immediate sign that Trump would face consequences from his fellow Republicans controlling Congress.
State Sen. Karin Housley, the GOP-endorsed candidate challenging Smith, sided with U.S. intelligence agencies but refrained from directly criticizing Trump in a prepared statement released by her campaign.
"There is unanimous agreement among the U.S. intelligence community that Russia intentionally interfered with our election — and Russia continues to stand in opposition to even the most basic democratic principles," Housley said in the statement. "Russia must be held accountable for its attack on our democracy, and we must make it crystal clear that their actions are inconsistent with the values of the United States of America."
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, also criticized Trump.
"The President was asked specifically if he believes his intelligence officers or Putin," Klobuchar tweeted. "He refused to side with the Americans who have dedicated their lives to serving our country. Instead he chose to side with the man who attacked our democracy."
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement that Russia attempted to attack the election system across the U.S. in 2016, including unsuccessfully in Minnesota. He noted that in a meeting two days earlier, the most senior leaders in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told him that the ongoing threat of Russian attacks on America's election system is real.
"The President made us less safe today by publicly doubting Russia's attempted interference in U.S. elections while standing next to the alleged mastermind of that interference," said Simon.
He added: "Make no mistake: until the leadership of our state and country — regardless of party affiliation — acknowledge the irrefutable fact that Russia is engaged in ongoing efforts to undermine our democracy, we are wasting time and attention on a debate over 'alternative facts,' instead of defending our democracy from those who wish to harm us."