Donald Trump was explicitly told to condemn the Salisbury spy poisoning in talking points for his call with Vladimir Putin but failed to do so, according to The Washington Post. The result of the election, however, was never in doubt, given Putin's autocratic stranglehold on power.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said, "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections".
Later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the United Kingdom poisoning, which has been condemned in harsh terms by British Prime Minister Theresa May, did not come up during the call.
"On the whole, the conversation was constructive and business-like", the Kremlin said, adding that its goal was to help the two countries "overcome the problems that had accumulated in the Russian-US relations". "Putin has been elected in their country and it not something we can dictate to them how they operate".
Trump's call of congratulations to Putin drew bruising criticism from members of his own party even before the revelation that he was advised against it. "We will probably be meeting in the not-too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control".
Trump said the call was "very good" and added that a meeting could focus on Ukraine, Syria, North Korea and other issues.
"I think Putin's a criminal", he said.
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A White House spokeswoman said Russia's election interference did not come up during Tuesday's phone call.
The UK government blamed the nerve agent attack on Russian Federation, which denies any involvement.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called the leak a "bigger outrage" than Trump's congratulations for Putin.
Any interactions between Trump and Putin are closely watched given the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. His tone has at times been at odds with his administration, which has taken stronger actions to counter Russian aggression, including Trump's authorisation of new sanctions against Russia and additional support Ukrainian troops in their fight against Russian-backed forces in Crimea.
Trump and Putin last met in Vietnam during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also distanced himself Tuesday from Trump's congratulatory remarks. "In particular, the importance of coordinated efforts to limit arms race was stressed", it said.