House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy criticized President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying in a statement on Thursday that Biden “gave Vladimir Putin a pass.”
“The American people suffered massive disruptions because of Russia-linked cyber-attacks,” McCarthy said in a statement released Thursday. “Two Americans, both Marine veterans, are being held as prisoners in Russia. We know Vladimir Putin silences and imprisons his critics.”
He added: “Knowing these facts, President Biden should have used today’s summit to stand up for our national interests and send a message to the world that the United States will hold Russia accountable for its long list of transgressions. Unfortunately, President Biden gave Vladimir Putin a pass.”
McCarthy’s comments come after years of silence from him on former President Donald Trump’s relationship with Putin, which many critics described as him cozying up to the Russian president especially amid intelligence Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
One of the most prominent moments between the two came when Trump, standing alongside Putin in 2018, declined to endorse the US government’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would be responsible.
Instead, Trump touted Putin’s denial and pivoted to complaining about the Democratic National Committee’s server and missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal account.
It also comes after The Washington Post reported in 2017 that McCarthy said in a conversation with fellow Republican leaders in 2016 that “there’s two people I think Putin pays: (Rep. Dana) Rohrabacher and Trump,” according to a recording of the June 2016 exchange.
He later told reporters his remarks were a bad attempt at humor.
“It was a bad attempt at a joke,” McCarthy told reporters leaving the House floor Wednesday, minutes after The Washington Post reported his comments.