Some Iowa Republicans Monday issued statements critical of President Donald Trump for his remarks in Finland following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In a joint news conference, the president appeared to accept Putin’s denial of involvement in the 2016 U.S. election, even though the U.S. Justice Department has indicted Russians in a cybersecurity scheme.
"I have great confidence in my intelligence people," Trump said. "But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. "Let me say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be."
That prompted harsh criticism from GOP members of Congress, including members of the Iowa delegation.
In a statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley cited the U.S. Justice Department indictments.
“These are serious charges that strike at the core of our democracy, and the individuals who were indicted need to face the allegations being levied against them,” Grassley wrote. “President Trump missed an opportunity to publicly press President Putin on whether he would agree to extradite the defendants to the United States to answer the allegations in court.”
Grassley said it’s important for U.S. presidents to improve relations with other countries.
“It’s also important for our leaders to be clear-eyed in their approach,” Grassley said. “Vladimir Putin isn’t a friend to the United States, to the Western world or our values.”
Sen. Joni Ernst expressed optimism that Trump had a different message to Putin in private.
“I have the utmost faith in the U.S. intelligence community and their assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election,” Ernst wrote in a statement. “I hope that President Trump, today, delivered a strong message behind closed doors that Russia will continue to be punished for … their aggressive actions in U.S. domestic policy.”
On Twitter, Republican Congressman David Young also said the President “missed an opportunity.”
“Iowans and Americans take their elections and value their vote in a dutiful and personal way and the President should have acknowledged this publicly by at least chastising Putin,” Young said.
But outgoing State Rep. Ken Rizer , R-Cedar Rapids, went further, announcing he will leave the Republican party because of the president’s actions.
“I can no longer call myself a Republican given the erratic and misguided leadership of the president,” Rizer wrote on Facebook. "I will always be a Reagan conservative, but find no place for such views in Trump’s World.”
Rizer announced this spring he will not seek re-election. In a brief telephone interview with Iowa Public Radio, Rizer said his decision to leave the party had been “in the works,” but the president’s remarks in Finland were “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”