Sen. Bennet: Putin couldn't ask for a better friend than Trump

Bipartisan focus group
Bipartisan focus group 01:29

WASHINGTON -- CBS News contributor Frank Luntz led a discussion with a dozen lawmakers in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning about some of the most pressing issues facing the country. Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was one of the hot-button issues discussed.

Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, who is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that evidence he saw of Russian interference was "very black and white, clear, convincing." 

"It was happening," McCaul said.

He also said he plans to introduce a bill codifying sanctions against Russia, similar to a bill that Senate recently passed.  

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The full panel CBS News

All 12 panelists -- six Republicans and six Democrats -- agreed that the U.S. needs to punish Russia for interfering in American democracy, and for its activities in Ukraine.

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Sen. Michael Bennet CBS News

But Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said one person who disagrees with McCaul's assessment of Russian meddling is President Trump.

"And while he disagrees with it, he's running down NATO. He's running down the European Union. And Putin couldn't ask for a better friend than that," Bennet said.

While Mr. Trump appeared to acknowledge Russia's meddling in the election last month, he also said on CBS News' "Face the Nation" in April that it "could've been China, could've been a lot of different groups."

The full discussion will air Friday on "CBS This Morning."  

The other lawmakers who participated are Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.).