Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Sunday harshly criticized President Donald Trump for his back-and-forth statements on whether or not he sides with the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election or Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denied the allegations again last week.
Trump infamously said last week during a joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki that he was partial to Putin's denials. The White House later clarified Trump's remarks, claiming the president misspoke.
But according to Gowdy, what Trump said, and the circus that followed, is unacceptable.
What did Gowdy say?
The South Carolina congressman's pointed criticism came in response to a question from Fox News anchor Bret Baier on "Fox News Sunday" about an op-ed Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) wrote last week, who alleged Trump is being "manipulated" by his Russian counterpart. Gowdy said he would "defer" to his colleague on manipulation, then offered his own criticism.
"I can tell you this, the president has access to every bit of evidence, even more than those of us who serve on House intel," he said.
"He has access to Pompeo and Chris Wray and Dan Coats and Nikki Haley — the evidence is overwhelming. It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016," Gowdy explained.
Gowdy said Trump needs to rely on his closest advisers — like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley — or the advisers "need to re-evaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration."
"But the disconnect cannot continue. The evidence is overwhelming and the president needs to say that and act like it," Gowdy added.
Baier noted that Trump and the White House eventually corrected the Helsinki mistake, but Gowdy said it wasn't just about that one line. In fact, he said Trump missed the opportunity to "distinguish" the U.S. "from any other country but especially from Russia" on the world stage.
Given the amount of evidence against Russia, Gowdy said not just Democrats, but every American, was a victim of Russia's cyberattacks in 2016. That fact alone should serve as a "source of unity."
"[But] there was this equivocation during the press conference. I’m glad he corrected it. But when you’re the leader of the free world, every syllable matters, and you really shouldn’t be having to correct it when you’re the leader of the free world," Gowdy explained.