Florida lawmakers on Monday blasted President Trump over taking Vladimir Putin's word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election, a conclusion that stands in dramatic contrast to widely held views among the intelligence community and on Capitol Hill.
"I don't see any reason why" Russia would do that, Trump said in Helsinki.
"What the president said today is not accurate," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said during an Atlantic Council event.
Florida Democrats were the first to react and in sharper terms.
"The president's refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all," Sen. Bill Nelson tweeted. "Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that's a fact. The president's unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing."
"Today @RealDonaldTrump became an illegitimate president when he showed the world that his loyalty lies more with #VladimirPutin than the people of the United States," Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson tweeted.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not directly criticize Trump but did say "Foreign policy must be based on reality, not hyperbole or wishful thinking."
Rubio was more specific during an Atlantic Council event.
"What the president said today is not accurate," the Florida Republican said, adding that "all I can speculate" is that Trump was trying to be nice to Putin to establish a better working relationship.
"The flaw is that Vladimir Putin is not interested in a better working relationship," Rubio said.
Miami Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen directly criticized Trump.
"The President's comments in Helsinki were deeply alarming," Curbelo said in a statement. "Russia's meddling in the 2016 election is fact – and the recent indictment from Director Mueller and the evidence it outlines proves that. It is unacceptable that an American President not only stood there and said nothing while Vladmir Putin spewed fiction at that press conference, but also questioned the hard work and findings of American intelligence and law enforcement investigators. The U.S. relationship with Russia has deteriorated to its current state because of Russia's criminal interference in our elections, lack of respect for human rights, and invasive and militant actions against its neighbors and our allies around the world. Blaming it on anything else, is unacceptable."
"No, @POTUS. Mueller investigation on election manipulation by #Russia is not 'a disaster for our country,'" Ros-Lehtinen tweeted. "It is law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do. What has 'kept us apart' is failure to condemn Russia, lack of any sign that you’ll stop it from happening again."
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart avoided directly criticizing Trump in his statement.
"As our own intelligence experts and the House Intelligence Committee have asserted, Russia interfered in the United States' 2016 election just as it meddles in the elections of its neighbors," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "Throughout the world, Russia is often on the opposite side of U.S. interests in crucial areas such as Ukraine, Syria, and Iran. Under Putin's charge, Russia has become increasingly undemocratic, expelling pro-democracy NGOs from its territory, suppressing independent media, ignoring human rights, and manifesting a perilous environment for journalists. We must remember that Russia is not an ally of the United States, and that those responsible for attacks on our democratic institutions must be held accountable."