WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Pat Toomey on Sunday called Russian President Vladimir Putin "a dangerous man and a thug" and said Russia has not been adequately punished for its attempts to meddle in last year's presidential election.
"I think we have to raise the cost to Putin for the outrageous behavior he's committed," the Pennsylvania senator said on "Meet The Press."
Toomey noted that the Senate did vote for tougher sanctions on Russia earlier this year, which included a Congressional review over any president who tried to lift the sanctions unilaterally. But he said more needs to be done.
President Donald Trump on Sunday claimed he was "with" the U.S. intelligence agencies on their conclusion that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 election, after sparking an uproar on Saturday by seeming to side with Putin's constant denial that Russia was involved. The president told reporters aboard Air Force One that Putin "said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did."
But on Sunday, Trump walked back his initial language, saying, "I believe [Putin] believes that, and that's very important for somebody to believe. I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership."
Also on Sunday's "Meet The Press," White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short tried to clarify that Trump "concurred with the January 2017 assessment he was provided by the intelligence community."
Toomey, meanwhile, declined to speculate on why the president offered such murky language on Putin's in his campaign against Hillary Clinton.
"I don't spend a lot of time trying to evaluate and analyze why the president comes to the conclusions he comes to," Toomey said. "In my view, I think it's clear that President Putin orchestrated an effort to meddle and disrupt our elections. I think he does that routinely in Western democracies. I think he has a variety of reasons for doing it. I don't think there's anything at all that we can trust that comes out of Putin's mouth. I think he's a dangerous man and a thug. And, look, I think that's the view of many of my colleagues."