- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The White House pushed back Tuesday against criticism of President Trump’s call to Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the administration “will be tough when we need to be.”

“Look, the president once again has maintained that it is important for us to have a dialogue with Russia so that we can focus on some areas of shared interest,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “At the same time we will continue to be tough on them.”

She said Mr. Trump offered the same type of congratulatory call for Mr. Putin’s election win Sunday as he did to leaders in France and Germany, and is similar to the call President Obama made when Mr. Putin won in 2012.

In the call, Mr. Trump raised neither Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election nor the recent nerve gas assassination attempt on a former Russian double agent in the U.K., Mrs. Sanders said.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Mr. Trump’s call to “insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”

Mrs. Sanders refused to challenge Mr. McCain’s description of the Russian election as a “sham.”

“We disagree with that we shouldn’t have conversations with Russia,” she said. “We’ve been very clear in the actions we’ve taken that we will be tough on Russia.”

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