Warner: 'I'm Not Here to Defend' Obama's Approach to Russia

July 17, 2018

Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) indicated Tuesday he was focused on opposing President Donal Trump's approach to Russia and said "he wasn't here to defend" his predecessor's action or lack thereof against the country.

CNBC "Squawk Box" anchor Joe Kernen spoke to Warner in the wake of Trump's Monday press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and he asked the senator about the comparative approach to Russia from former President Barack Obama. Despite criticism the president has received for rhetoric about Russia, Kernen mentioned some of the strong actions Trump has taken against the Putin-led government and how, in contrast, Russia invaded Crimea and meddled in the 2016 elections during the Obama administration.

"Senator, I think that the president in the past has said ‘no one has been tougher on Russia than I have been on Russia,’ and we know that he's stated that he'd like, like many past presidents, a reset with Russia. And he thinks that as nuclear superpowers, it would be good to get along, it would be good to have someone aligned with you because China is such an economic power," Kernen said. "I understand that."

"But in terms of actions, he increased the defense spending dramatically, that's mostly aimed at Russia, the biggest defense bill, appropriations we've ever seen, increased nuclear weapons capacity and modernized nuclear weapons–that's primarily aimed at Russia–got Europe to increase its defense spending–primarily aimed at Russia–expelled 60 Russian officials after the poisoning in Britain. Crimea happened under Obama, the meddling happened under Obama," Kernen said. "What did the Obama administration do that was tough?"

"I'm not here to defend Obama ... we ought to actually not deal in hyperbole; let's deal in facts," Warner said. "The only reason, the only reason that Trump put sanctions on Russia was because Congress said, ‘we don't trust you not to put sanctions’ and they passed what was called CAATSA that took away the president's authority to walk away from those sanctions."