To outrage in Washington, president Donald Trump has lent weight to Russian denials of meddling in United States elections at his inaugural summit with Vladimir Putin, where the pair championed a fresh start in relations between the world's leading nuclear powers.
Trump's comments at the news conference with Putin drew criticism from across the partisan spectrum, with Democrats and Republicans alike condemning the US president's unwillingness to say whether the Russians sought to interfere in the 2016 election, despite the consensus of the USA intelligence community.
Politicians from both major parties and former intelligence officials appeared shocked, dismayed and uneasy with Mr Trump's suggestion he believes Mr Putin's denial of interfering in the 2016 elections. I strongly urge President Trump and this Administration to hold Russian Federation and Putin accountable.
"Seriously, Trump gushes over Putin like a flustered 12-year-old who just met Mickey at Disneyland", the "Late Night" host said.
"My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others", Trump said.
Newspapers around the world have reacted to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin's performances at the Helsinki summit, and are united in their assessment of which world leader came out on top.
Contrast Trump's reluctance in Helsinki to criticize Putin or any Russian misbehavior with his eager readiness to criticize allies [at last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit] in Brussels, particularly Germany and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, over defense spending, plus his London interview in which he put the European Union at the top of his list of foes of the United States.
Collins said: "I share President Trump's continued frustration as the left continues to try to nullify the 2016 Presidential election with claims of Russian interference".
"Whether it be chemical attacks on our allied soil, the invasion of Ukraine, propping up the murderer Assad in Syria, or meddling in our elections through cyber-attacks, Vladimir Putin's Russian Federation remains an adversary to the United States". "Sure, on the one hand, Russian Federation messed with the USA by meddling in the elections, but on the other hand, America held elections, so they were asking for it". He went on to say that Trump and Putin "seemed to be speaking from the same script" and Trump made a "conscious choice to defend a tyrant".
"To all our allies: there are still many of us in Congress that know Russian Federation is not just an adversary to the United States but to freedom loving people everywhere", he added. We do think it's reckless to suggest at this point, as Democratic leaders did later Monday, that Russian Federation must have compromising info on our president. He said Mr Trump's refusal to condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election made the United States, "look like a pushover". Says he trusts U.S. intel but made clear he takes Putin's denials seriously.
Sen McCain, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said it was a "disgraceful performance" by a U.S. president.
"This was a very good day for President Putin", said Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
"I think these people are mistaken", Paul told the Associated Press.
Sen. Cotton issued this more detailed statement: "U.S. -Russia relations remain at a historic low for one simple reason: Vladimir Putin is a committed adversary of the United States".
"We haven't seen an American so owned by a Russian since Rocky IV", he said.
Kimmel noted the wink Trump gave to Putin moments after the two sat down in front of the press. Lindsey Graham of SC called the summit a "missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russian Federation accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections".