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Trump call to Putin draws condemnation as leaked details show widening rift with staff

President Trump's phone call congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his landslide re-election drew criticism on Wednesday from lawmakers and former national security officials. On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Trump had ignored instructions from advisors not to congratulate the Russian leader, widening the rift between him and his staff. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Also on Capitol Hill, lawmakers weighed in on President Trump's phone call, one that wasn't originally scheduled to happen.

    Yamiche Alcindor reports on the controversial call between Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The snow showed no signs of letting up in Washington today, and neither did criticism of President Trump and his phone call congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his landslide reelection.

  • Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.:

    What is the president thinking? What are we congratulating him for? For being great at hacking into Americans' voting rights?

  • Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.:

    I think Putin is a criminal. I wouldn't have a conversation with a criminal.

  • John Brennan:

    I think he's afraid of the president of Russia.

  • Question:

    Why?

  • John Brennan:

    Well, I think one can speculate as to why, that the Russians might have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump had no public events today, but instead took to Twitter, claiming other presidents, like President Obama, congratulated Putin in the past, too.

    He added — quote — "Getting along with Russia and others is a good thing, not a bad thing."

    On Sunday, Putin won his fourth term with more than 76 percent of the vote, a victory some election observers said was rigged. The next day, White House staff downplayed Mr. Trump's reaction.

  • Hogan Gidley:

    Look, obviously, the president knows Vladimir Putin won the election. What I can say is that there are no scheduled phone calls between the two right now.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But, by Tuesday, the president differed.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Last night, the rift between the president and his staff widened, with The Washington Post reported he ignored specific instructions from his national security adviser not to congratulate Putin.

    White House staffers also asked Mr. Trump to condemn the controversial poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, according to the report. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said he didn't.

  • Question:

    I'm curious, did the recent poisoning in the United Kingdom come up in the call?

  • Sarah Sanders:

    I don't believe that was discussed in today's call.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly blamed staffers today, growing — quote — "frustrated and deeply disappointed" about leaks of Mr. Trump's briefing advice to the media, per White House officials today.

    This all in the wake of Mr. Trump's apparent tougher talk on Russia in recent weeks. Last week, the White House rolled out its harshest set of sanctions against Russia since Mr. Trump took office, but he avoided questions on the topic.

  • Question:

    Any comment on the Russian sanctions, Mr. President?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mr. Trump did point to Russia as being behind the nerve gas attack on its former spy in Britain.

  • President Donald Trump:

    It's a very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. It's something that should never, ever happen. And we're taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Mr. Trump has had a controversially collegial relationship with Putin in the past. The president said he takes Putin at his word that he didn't meddle in the 2016 elections.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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