RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin on Thursday criticized Congress for its pressure on President Donald Trump hours after the House of Representatives impeached the American leader, describing the partisan vote as “the continuation of the domestic political strife.”
“Your members of Congress should know better,” Putin said Thursday morning during his annual, wide-ranging press conference. His remarks came less than a day after the House impeached Trump on two articles almost exclusively along party lines: abuse of power, with a vote of 230-197, and of obstruction of Congress, with a vote of 229-198.
Trump’s pressuring the newly elected government in Ukraine to investigate his political rivals earlier this year served as the central tenet of Democrats’ criticism and subsequent investigations in recent months. Moscow continues to support separatist rebels in Ukraine, which remains an active and deadly war zone in its eastern reaches. His campaign was also the subject of an investigation into allegations, ultimately disproven, that it coordinated with Russia during the leadup to the 2016 election.
The Russian leader on Thursday defended Trump – with whom he has maintained an amiable relationship since the embattled American leader became president – against what Putin considered Democrats’ attempts in the aftermath of the election to “achieve results through others means, accusing Trump of colluding with Russia.”
“Later on, it turned out there had been no collusion, so this cannot be the basis for impeachment,” Putin said. “Now they are referring to alleged pressure on Ukraine. I don’t know what it is all about.”
Putin’s statements mirrored arguments from Trump’s Republican defenders, insisting the impeachment proceedings that have dominated domestic politics in recent weeks represent little more than an attempt to undo the results of the contentious 2016 election.
Trump and his allies have, since impeachment proceedings began, repeated debunked claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election – a conspiracy theory that mirrors propaganda from Moscow.
Democrats’ criticism of Republicans’ apparently repeating Russian talking points turned into one of the most fiery exchanges during the impeachment floor debate on Wednesday. Texas Republican Louie Gohmert referenced the debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, prompting House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York to express criticism that the Texas Republican would “spew Russian propaganda.” The comment infuriated Gohmert, whose subsequent outburst was shut down by the presiding chairwoman of the House. Gohmert later walked over to the Democratic side and privately yelled at Nadler.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russia attempted to intervene in the 2016 election through sophisticated and concerted cyber attacks and information warfare. Its aim was to boost support for Trump and undermine the candidacy of Hillary Clinton as part of a larger effort to sow division in the United States. Analysts also believe Putin sought revenge against Clinton since she supported pro-democracy protesters in Russia in 2011 while serving as secretary of state.