U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said Russian President Vladimir Putin “couldn’t ask for a better friend” than President Donald Trump on Thursday during a discussion with a bipartisan group of lawmakers sponsored by CBS News.
After a Republican congressman from Texas said Russia should face consequences for “interfering in our democracy,” Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, said Trump disagreed with that assessment and meanwhile was “running down NATO, he’s running down the European Union.”
The exchange took place at a wide-ranging roundtable moderated by CBS News contributor Frank Luntz that aired Friday on CBS This Morning. Bennet was among a dozen senators and members of Congress, including six Democrats and six Republicans.
When the discussion turned to former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he had full confidence in Mueller. He added that the House would soon produce a sanctions bill against Russia.
Bennet responded, “The only person who disagrees with the chairman is the president. And while he disagrees with it, he’s running down NATO, he’s running down the European Union. Putin couldn’t ask for a better friend than that.”
Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly said the probe into Russia’s meddling was distracting Congress from its real job, which he said was “getting people back to work, seeing wages rise again, seeing families be able to be together.”
Gesturing emphatically, Bennet broke in.
“But congressman, but look, we come here week after week after week — with respect, week after week after week — and do nothing. We don’t pass any legislation,” he said. “We don’t walk and chew gum at the same time. The American people expect us to do that. The Russians attacked our elections. We need to respond to the Russians. And we need to do the work you’re talking about on the economy. We need to do both. What we don’t need to do is come here week after week after week and do nothing.”
Bennet later tweeted a video clip of the exchange, adding, “We can respond to the Russian attack on our elections AND work to improve our economy. They are not mutually exclusive. We must do both.”
We can respond to the Russian attack on our elections AND work to improve our economy. They are not mutually exclusive. We must do both. pic.twitter.com/I4uao8SKtA
— Michael F. Bennet (@SenBennetCO) July 14, 2017