Former Republican lawmaker and Newsmax TV personality Joe Walsh denounced President Donald Trump as a "traitor" who had "made it clear" Monday he sides with Russia over the United States.
"What you saw was 'collusion' on the world stage," Walsh – who served Illinois' 8th district from 2011 to 2013 and now hosts "The Joe Walsh Show" week nights at 9 p.m. ET on Newsmax TV – said on Twitter.
His declaration – and harsh criticisms from other conservatives, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. – came after Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a press conference in which Trump inferred he believed Putin over U.S. intelligence on whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential race. Trump also called special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian's meddling a "disaster."
In an extraordinary tweetstorm, Walsh added:
Walsh called Trump's demeanor at the Helsinki summit "the final straw for me. I will never support Trump again. If that makes me a NeverTrumper, so be it. I am a Tea Party conservative, that will never change. But Trump was a traitor to this country today. That must not be accepted."
And other conservatives were swift in their reaction.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement: "There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence.
"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told The New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg:
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said, according to Axios: "This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people, but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs."
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: "Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections. This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves . . . if it were me, I'd check the soccer ball [given to Trump by Putin] for listening devices and never allow it in the White House."
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said on Twitter:
Ari Fleischer, a press secretary for former President George W. Bush, tweeted:
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., tweeted:
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said on Twitter: "Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Our nation's top intelligence agencies all agree on that point. From the president on down, we must do everything in our power to protect our democracy by securing future elections from foreign influence and interference, regardless of what Vladimir Putin or any other Russian operative says . . .
"I trust the good work of our intelligence and law enforcement personnel who have sworn to protect the United States of America from enemies foreign and domestic."
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, told CNN: "I don't know (whether) the President is trying to use some sort of carrots and stick approach with Putin but I believe the intelligence community."
Rep. Darryl Issa, R-Calif., told CNN: "I think for the president to cast doubt is appropriate. To cast doubt on the validity of various things is fair." But, he added, “Putin is an evil man who has killed many people in his own country, there is question at all that Russia is still an adverse entity to the United States."
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., tweeted:
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said:
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