President Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin this afternoon, congratulating him on winning re-election on Sunday. After the call, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said it wasn’t up to the U.S. to “dictate" how Russia holds elections.
Sen. John McCain's response:
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections."
The bottom line: Trump is not alone in congratulating Putin — leaders in France, Germany and elsewhere have done so this week, as Barack Obama did in 2012. But past administrations certainly have seen it as America’s role to call balls and strikes when it comes to elections abroad, Axios world editor Dave Lawler notes.
What to watch: Will the White House take a similar position on elections in Venezuela in May, which are widely expected to be a farce? Based on past comments, probably not.
Flashback: Obama called to congratulate Putin in 2012, when he returned to the presidency after a four year hiatus. Obama, who was attempting a “reset” with Russia at the time, didn’t raise electoral issues either, though the State Department did.
Go deeper: What Trump and Putin talked about, per the White House