Northeast Florida Congressmen pan Donald Trump’s performance with Vladimir Putin

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JACKSONVILLE – It’s a measure of how dubious President Donald Trump’s performance was at the Helsinki summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin that even Republicans who proudly campaigned with the President in 2016 are distancing themselves from his remarks.

Congressman Ted Yoho(R-3), who faces a primary challenge from Judson Sapp of Fleming Island in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, bemoaned a “missed opportunity” by the President.

“Today’s press conference between President Trump and Vladimir Putin was a missed opportunity to hold Russia accountable for their meddling into our 2016 presidential election. I don’t agree with President Trump’s comments that his regime didn’t interfere. The evidence from our national security agencies is clear; Russia deliberately tried to undermine our republic. This is unacceptable,” Yoho said Monday.

“Putin has never been, nor will he be, a friend to the United States. It must be made clear to his regime that we will not tolerate any hostile action against the United States. The preservation of our Republic is paramount and is of the utmost importance to all Americans,” Yoho added.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, a first-termer from Jacksonville who has not been quick to criticize the President in the last year and a half, likewise distanced himself from Trump in his own brief statement on Monday.

“Today was a missed opportunity for the President to place additional pressure on Vladimir Putin for his regime’s misdeeds. Even with the President’s misgivings with those who seek to undermine him at home, we cannot equate ourselves with the Putin regime, its record of hostility, and its assaults on democratic values across the globe. We must seek to avoid sending the wrong message to our allies and emboldening those who wish to harm us and undermine our values. We must always stand up for our freedoms, our values, our allies, and the American way,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford is not facing a primary challenger in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, and has a massive financial edge over an underfunded Democratic foe. Rutherford will face George “Ges” Selmont of Ponte Vedra Beach in the November general election.

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat whose 5th Congressional District runs east to Jacksonville, hazarded no political risk in criticizing the President as he did Monday.

“Today’s meeting in Helsinki between President Trump and Vladimir Putin was utterly disgraceful. As an American, I am embarrassed that the President of the United States would discredit our intelligence community and side with a dictator such as Putin. No other president, in my lifetime, has been more reckless than Donald J. Trump. Actions such as these are an attack on our democracy and are truly disappointing,” Lawson said.

Lawson faces a primary challenge from fellow Democrat and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

A.G. Gancarski covers Jacksonville City Hall and other beats for FloridaPolitics.com. His column appears courtesy of FloridaPolitics.com.

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