- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2017

Sens. Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst said Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is no friend of the United States, with Mr. Cotton saying the Cold War didn’t end in Mr. Putin’s mind.

“It’s good to see the Democrats have discovered their inner Cold War [era] after so many years,” Mr. Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Vladimir Putin didn’t think the Cold War ever ended. He didn’t think they lost.”

“He just thought they were behind at halftime, and they’ve been making up ground now for 17 years,” he said. “Russia is not our friend. Vladimir Putin is not our friend.”

Ms. Ernst, Iowa Republican, said on the program she agreed with that sentiment from Mr. Cotton.

Vladimir Putin is not our friend. He has never been our friend, and we need to watch America’s back,” she said.

“We need to maintain, of course, a relationship with Russia, but it needs to be one of strength,” Ms. Ernst said.

The New York Times reported Thursday that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies are looking into intercepted communications and financial transactions into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald Trump, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The transition team said they have no knowledge of any investigation or a basis for such an investigation, and Mr. Manafort and other Trump associates denied Russian ties.

“Of course, it has to be looked at,” Ms. Ernst said of possible connections between Russia and Mr. Trump or his associates. “My concern, of course, is with the Russian hacking — that we know happened.”

“So reports will come out. Investigations will be done. It is concerning, because you know what? Now Donald Trump is our president as of today at noon,” she said. “So he will need to understand that America is number one.”

A number of Democrats are boycotting Friday’s presidential inauguration, saying they don’t consider Mr. Trump to be legitimately elected because of Russian meddling in the campaign.

Mr. Trump recently said he accepts that Russia was to blame for campaign season hacking of Democratic officials, but also said other countries hack the U.S. as well. He has said it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the U.S. to get along with Russia and Mr. Putin.

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