Trump was advised against congratulating Putin, before he did

Trump was advised against congratulating Putin

President Trump was advised against congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his reelection victory, CBS News' Jeff Pegues confirms. Mr. Trump did so anyway.

A source tells CBS News Mr. Trump was briefed to prepare him for the call with Putin, and a recommendation was made against congratulating Putin. Mr. Trump ultimately congratulated the Russian president, after an election filled with accusations of ballot stuffing. The Washington Post first reported Mr. Trump went against the advice of his National Security Council in congratulating Putin, claiming Mr. Trump even had a section in his briefing materials with the words, "'DO NOT CONGRATULATE,'" in all caps.

In describing the process, a source emphasized to Pegues that people advise the president, but the president makes the decision and obviously doesn't have to adhere to recommendations. In this case, Mr. Trump ultimately decided to congratulate Putin.

The White House says it's a "fireable offense and likely illegal" to leak Mr. Trump's briefing papers.

The White House said in an official statement Wednesday: "If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the president's briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal." The White House wouldn't confirm that Trump was warned "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" Putin, as a senior administration official told the Associate Press on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

It was unclear whether Mr. Trump read the talking points prepared by his national security team before Tuesday's call. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster briefed the president in person before the call.

Mr. Trump's decision to congratulate the foreign leader, given the election circumstances -- and given that the U.S. and ally nations have accused Russia of being behind the suspected nerve poisoning attack in the United Kingdom -- did not sit well even with some members of Mr. Trump's own party.

"An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement. "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 to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime."

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the president "can call whomever he chooses," he also said calling him "wouldn't have been high on my list," and he, like McCain, cast doubt on the vote count. "When I look at a Russian election, what I see is a lack of credibility in tallying the results," he said.

McConnell said calling Putin wouldn't have been high on his priority list. McConnell said Defense Secretary James Mattis attended Tuesday's policy lunch to discuss Yemen and Defense issues in general.

Sen. McCain slams Trump for congratulatory call with Putin

Mr. Trump on Tuesday said he hopes to "get together in the not-too-distant future" with Putin so "we can discuss the arms race."

But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there are no plans to do so soon. Sanders would not directly answer whether the White House believes Russia's election was free and fair in Tuesday's press briefing.

"In terms of the election, there we're focused on our elections. We don't get to dictate how other countries operate," she said.