Seizing a few minutes with Donald Trump Tuesday after he walked back his dismissal of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam tried an anecdote to make a point to the president.
The Wheaton Republican joined a chorus of disapproval that condemned Trump for not standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday. On Tuesday, in a brief face-to-face at the White House after a meeting with congressional Republicans, Roskam invoked how former President Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union an “evil empire” inspired imprisoned dissidents in 1983.
It might have fallen on deaf ears.
“The point I was making is that the American president has a unique voice in the world … when you treat Putin as if he were just a rascal, it’s the completely wrong thing to communicate,” Roskam said.
Trump “was defensive and was saying that — that was a different time, and a different place, and the circumstances were different,” Roskam recalled Wednesday.
The president ignored conclusions by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian agents hacked into Democratic emails to skew the 2016 election, saying “I don’t know any reason why it would be” at a news conference with Putin Monday.
On Tuesday, at a pre-scheduled tax policy meeting with Ways and Means Committee members like Roskam, Trump told reporters he did believe the U.S. government’s findings and meant to say “wouldn’t be,” not “would be.”
On Wednesday, however, Trump denied Russia was targeting the 2018 elections, contradicting assessments by U.S. spy agencies.
Roskam’s Democratic opponent on Nov. 6., Sean Casten of Downers Grove, argued that Roskam failed to support bipartisan legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference.
“Actions speak louder than words,” Casten said. “Just today, Donald Trump flipped again to say that Russia isn’t targeting the U.S. anymore. Peter Roskam can tell all the stories he wants to Trump, but unless he puts action behind those words — he is failing to truly hold this president accountable.”
Roskam said he had referenced Natan Sharansky, a Jewish dissident, who said Reagan’s denunciation of Soviet oppression gave him hope in prison.
Trump “didn’t agree with me,” but “sometimes one doesn’t know the influence a discussion can have (on) someone,” Roskam said.
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