Ahead of his highly criticized call with Vladimir Putin in which he congratulated the authoritarian leader for winning his sham election, President Trump was reportedly warned by his national security advisors not to do exactly that. The Washington Post reports that the president neglected to “follow specific warnings,” according to sources from inside the White House.
And just how “specific” were those warnings? Well for starters, a section in his briefing materials apparently specified “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” in all-caps.
On Tuesday, Trump boasted of his call with Putin during a meeting in the Oval Office, admitting that he had call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory. The gesture was subsequently slammed by Sen. John McCain, who called it an “insult to every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future.”
The White House press office declined to comment on the briefing materials given to Trump. Two people familiar with the notecards acknowledged that they included instructions not to congratulate Putin. But a senior White House official emphasized that national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not mention the issue during a telephone briefing with the president, who was in the White House residence ahead of and during his conversation with Putin.
It was not clear whether Trump read the notes, administration officials said. Trump, who initiated the call, opened it with the congratulations for Putin, one person familiar with the conversation said.
White House chief of staff John Kelly is said to be “furious” over the leaks to the Post, which broke the news of Trump ignoring notes about the call on Tuesday evening, and plans to address the matter with aides on Wednesday in an attempt to figure out who leaked the warning.
A White House official didn’t dispute to CNN Tuesday the language on the notes provided by members of Trump’s National Security Council, but said Trump didn’t read or see the notecard. The official added that Trump often disregards advice in calls with foreign leaders.
The official slammed the leak as “unacceptable,” which is being viewed as an attempt to embarrass and discredit Trump and McMaster.