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Democrats Urge Trump To Take Tough Stand During Meeting With Putin

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Democratic Party leaders have called on U.S. President Donald Trump to take a tough stand during his meeting with his Russian counterpart next month.

The White House announced Thursday that Trump will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16 in Finnish capital Helsinki to discuss "relations between the United States and Russia and a range of national security issues."

Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters aboard Air Force One, "The President is pursuing this meeting in the interest of America's national security to determine whether Russia is willing to make progress in our relationship".

The President hopes that the meeting can help reduce tensions and lead to constructive engagement that improves peace and security around the world, Walters added.

In a statement slamming Trump over his decision to meet with his Russian counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., asked, "Why is our president so committed to building a relationship with someone so dedicated to undermining our democracy and doing harm to our friends and allies?"

"For Trump to reward President Putin with a one-on-one meeting while Russia actively continues to interfere with our elections & undermine the integrity of the transatlantic alliance, proves his priorities are out of whack," Schumer said on Twitter.

He suggested that "If anything should happen at this meeting, Trump must inform Putin of his intent to aggressively implement tough sanctions that Congress passed last year nearly unanimously and tell him we will no longer stand by while he works to destabilize & harm us & our NATO allies".

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., described the Trump-Putin meeting as "a mockery of history".

Hoyer said in a statement that if President Trump is to meet with President Putin, it would be irresponsible for him not to address Russia's human rights shortcomings.

"At the same time, he must confront President Putin on Russia's interference in our elections and insist that Russia end its illegal occupation of Crimea and its destabilizing activities in Eastern Ukraine and in Syria." Hoyer said.

Hoyer noted that to ignore these issues would be an abdication of his responsibilities as President of the United States.

"The President may think he can play good cop, but backslapping and smiles will not change the Russian President's behavior or stop Russia's aggression or its nefarious efforts to undermine American democracy," Hoyer added.

He urged Trump to take a tough approach and to do so in concert with the NATO allies he will meet with before traveling to Helsinki.

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