Santorum: Trump has ‘a problem conflating the Russia investigation with the legitimacy of his election’

July 22, 2018

Santorum: Trump’s presser with Putin ‘a serious error’ that ‘hurt’ his administration

By Nicholas Ballasy

WASHINGTON – In an exclusive interview, former Sen. Rick Santorum said that President Trump has “a problem conflating the Russia Investigation with the legitimacy of his election” and he hopes Trump will be able to move past that and stay focused.

“I was disappointed in the president’s performance at the press conference [with President Putin]. I’m glad he clarified his remark. The solace I take from all of this is I look at the president’s actions with respect to Russia and national security, generally, I think he’s been right on target with how he’s dealt with these national security issues so I just think the president was dealing with conflating some – he has a problem conflating the Russia investigation with the legitimacy of his election,” Santorum said following an event on paid family leave at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

“While some want to conflate those two things, I think they’re really distinct issues. Did Russia get involved with the election, period? Number one. Number two, did Trump and his campaign coordinate or collude? Those are two different issues. And number three – did it have any impact?”

Santorum, who ran for president in 2012 and 2016, argued that Russian meddling in the election did not affect the ultimate outcome.

“I would make the argument the Russia involvement in the election had zero impact so they certainly colluded, excuse me, they certainly got involved in the election, I don’t think they had an impact in the election and it’s pretty clear they didn’t collude with the Trump campaign in the election,” he said. “So I think the president should be able to deal with each one of those issues separately and I think he’s had trouble doing that and I hope he can, at this point, get through that and stay focused as he should.”

Santorum was asked if he agreed with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who said Trump’s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin was the biggest mistake of his presidency so far.

“I think the president hurt himself, hurt his administration, and committed a serious error. I think the fact that he’s been listening to his team and listening to his supporters and gone out and clarified his remarks and talked about how they’re going to do whatever is necessary to stop Russian involvement — this leads to really the broader issue of all of cyber warfare. It’s something I’m very, very interested in, in fact I’m working with a company who is in the cyber security area,” he said.

“We have a lot of work to do. The government actually does a reasonably good job in dealing with cyber but the private sector does a woeful job in dealing with it and most of the attacks that are occurring in this country are occurring against civilian targets, not against military or government targets,” he added.

Santorum continued, “There has to be an increased awareness, an increased focus by the private sector on how we defend ourselves, not against just thugs and folks sitting in Moldova trying to make a few bucks but against the Chinese and the North Koreans and the Russians and others who are state sponsors of this type of cyber attacks in an effort to bring down the economic system in our country.”