National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday that the Department of Justice’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election could “strengthen” President Donald Trump’s position in dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin at their Monday meeting in Helsinki.
“I would say in fact it strengthens his hand,” Bolton said of Trump on ABC’s “This Week.” He added, “It shows that . . . the justice system, the Department of Justice, are aware of these Russian efforts in election meddling, and I think the president can put this on the table and say, ‘This is a serious matter that we need to talk about.’”
The Justice Department on Friday announced that the 12 Russian military intelligence officers were indicted on charges of hacking into email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, as part of an effort by the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the indictments weren’t a surprise.
“I think the bigger picture is we need to hold the Russians accountable for what they did, their malign activity throughout Europe as well,” Huntsman said. “That’s a part of the conversation that needs to take place.”
He also warned of potential consequences if Russians attempt to interfere with the U.S. midterm elections this fall.
“We have an election coming up in November, and if there is meddling in the election this November like we saw in 2016, we’re not going to have much of a relationship left, and all of these issues we’re talking about and trying to find common ground, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to do,” Huntsman said on “Fox News Sunday.”
On Saturday, the president criticized the administration of former President Barack Obama on Twitter for not doing enough to prevent hackers from accessing the emails.
“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?”
Democrats have criticized Trump for not more strongly rebuking Putin.
“I am stunned that this president will not call out Vladimir Putin or Russia’s bad behavior,” said Virginia’s Sen. Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Warner said he feared the Russian Federation leader will outfox the president in their meeting.
“Vladimir Putin is a trained KGB agent,” Warner said. “He may come in with maps of Syria, or maps of Ukraine, and frankly, I think he’ll take advantage of this president who we know doesn’t do much prep work before these meetings.”
Other administration officials, Warner said, “will press the Russians on making sure they don’t interfere in future U.S. elections.”