Before he called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, President Trump was warned in all caps by national security advisers not to congratulate Putin on his re-election, officials familiar with the phone call told The Washington Post.
Trump did congratulate Putin, and the White House later said they also discussed arms control and the situations in Syria and North Korea. His briefing materials included the note "DO NOT CONGRATULATE," and aides told Trump he needed to condemn the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in England earlier this month; several countries, including the U.S., say Moscow is likely behind the attack. Trump didn't bring this up, the Post reports. Analysts say Russia's election, which Putin won with 76 percent of the vote, was undemocratic, and there are videos showing ballot box stuffing.
One senior White House official told the Post that it's not clear if Trump read the materials, and another said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster did not explicitly say anything about not congratulating Putin during a phone briefing ahead of the call. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was not impressed by Trump's conversation with Putin, and tweeted Tuesday afternoon: "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election."