WASHINGTON – Florida lawmakers on Monday blasted President Trump over taking Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, a conclusion that stands in dramatic contrast to widely held views among the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill.
"I don't see any reason why" Russia would do that, Trump said in Helsinki.
"What the president said today is not accurate," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said during an Atlantic Council event.
Florida Democrats were the first to react and in sharper terms.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not directly criticize Trump but did say "Foreign policy must be based on reality, not hyperbole or wishful thinking."
But Rubio was more specific during an Atlantic Council event.
"What the president said today is not accurate," the Florida Republican said, adding that "all I can speculate" is that Trump was trying to be nice to Putin to establish a better working relationship.
"The flaw is that Vladimir Putin is not interested in a better working relationship," Rubio said.
We've asked to of Trump's biggest defenders, Reps. Ron DeSantis and Matt Gaetz for comment and will update this space if they respond.
DeSantis went on Fox News and blamed President Obama, a line Trump has used.
"People in the Russian government didn't think Obama would do anything. So Obama's weakness over eight years, starting with the reset, I think that that did invite Russia to be more belligerent than they otherwise would if they had someone pushing back," DeSantis said. "So I think the president had an opportunity to point that out and say 'There's a new sheriff in town.' "
Later, DeSantis said, "I personally think that the intel report and the indictment are credible in terms of assigning blame and culpability to Russia. But at the same time, I don't think that had anything to do with the fact that (Trump) whipped Hillary Clinton, and I don't think there was any Russia-Trump collusion."
Other reaction provided to the Tampa Bay Times:
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota:
"Russia is not our friend. There is no dissent inside U.S. intelligence agencies about the conclusion that Russia interfered in the presidential election. We need to take steps to prevent such interference in the future."
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor:
"While I applaud efforts to build bridges with world leaders, including those with a long-standing history of aggression and hostility toward the U.S. such as North Korea and Russia, I have far more confidence in the findings of the U.S. intelligence community than I do in the empty words and denials of Vladimir Putin, a known bad actor on the world stage. While I do not believe it altered the outcome of the 2016 election, there is undeniable evidence that Russia attempted to interfere with our electoral process. I have previously supported sanctions against Russia, expulsions of their diplomats, closures of their diplomatic facilities, and indictments of their officers and believe it is important to continue to hold those who seek to destabilize our democracy accountable for their crimes."
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami:
"The President's comments in Helsinki were deeply alarming. Russia's meddling in the 2016 election is fact – and the recent indictment from Director Mueller and the evidence it outlines proves that. It is unacceptable that an American President not only stood there and said nothing while Vladmir Putin spewed fiction at that press conference, but also questioned the hard work and findings of American intelligence and law enforcement investigators. The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated to its current state because of Russia's criminal interference in our elections, lack of respect for human rights, and invasive and militant actions against its neighbors and our allies around the world. Blaming it on anything else, is unacceptable."
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee:
"No friend of America would willingly try to cause chaos and confusion in our election system. It is clear from the findings in the Intelligence Community's assessment that Russia tried to undermine the fundamental sanctity of our democracy and our basic values. I stand by that assessment and I am fully confident that Russia will continue to be a malicious actor in the future. We must continue to guard ourselves and our way of life against those that wish to do us harm."
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Jacksonville:
"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."
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach:
"It's disgraceful that the President is parroting Russian propaganda in Helsinki. He repeats Putin's lies while disregarding the unanimous conclusion from our own Intelligence Community and ignoring DOJ's indictment of 12 Russian spies who interfered in the election to help him win. Today was a shameful, dark day in our nation's history. President Trump is selling out our country, weakening our democracy, and siding with those who seek to do us harm. Instead of praising Putin, our President should be holding him accountable."
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami:
"As our own intelligence experts and the House Intelligence Committee have asserted, Russia interfered in the United States' 2016 election just as it meddles in the elections of its neighbors. Throughout the world, Russia is often on the opposite side of U.S. interests in crucial areas such as Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. Under Putin's charge, Russia has become increasingly undemocratic, expelling pro-democracy NGOs from its territory, suppressing independent media, ignoring human rights, and manifesting a perilous environment for journalists. We must remember that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and that those responsible for attacks on our democratic institutions must be held accountable."
– Times/Herald staff writer Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.