Barletta treads softly on Trump’s encounter with Putin

President Donald Trump, (left), greets Pa. Rep. Lou Barletta, R.Pa., before a speech at H&K Equipment Co. on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 in Coraopolis, Pa. Barletta is running for the U.S. Senate. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

President Donald Trump, (left), greets Pa. Rep. Lou Barletta, R.Pa., before a speech at H&K Equipment Co. on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 in Coraopolis, Pa. Barletta is running for the U.S. Senate. (Keith Srakocic/AP Photo)

Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. candidate Lou Barletta said after President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday that Trump “understands that protecting the United States from all foreign threats is his highest obligation.” Barletta is a Republican congressman representing the 11th District. 

Barletta’s temperate comments, even as a Republican, stand in contrast to the hail of condemnation from both Republican and Democratic elected officials of Trump’s apparent willingness to accept Putin’s denial that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Republican Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey called Putin an “international pariah” and said that Trump’s “blindness to Putin’s hostile acts against the U.S. and our allies — election meddling included — is very troubling.”

Barletta, an early and consistent Trump supporter, did say in his statement he agrees with U.S. intelligence services that Russia “attempted to interfere” in the election.

But he didn’t criticize Trump, and said he believes it’s “important to continue the dialogue between our two nations to address critical issues like stabilization in Syria and denuclearization.”

Barletta is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in the November election.

Casey tweeted on Monday that while he supported Trump’s initiative on North Korea, Trump’s conduct in his press conference with Putin was “dangerous and reckless.”

“What occurred during today’s press conference with Vladimir Putin was dangerous and reckless, it was a new low and profound embarrassment for America,” Casey said.

It’s unclear whether the harsh reaction to Trump’s performance will harm Barletta’s chances in the election nearly four months away.

Bucks County Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who’s facing a competitive re-election battle this year, joined in the criticism of Trump’s encounter with Putin.

“I support our intelligence community, and I stand by their conclusions,” Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, said in a statement.

“The president must acknowledge that Putin directed Russian actors to interfere and undermine our democratic process. Russia is not our ally and Putin is a KGB thug,” he said.

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