SPLIT

Cotton Breaks with Trump on Russia, Putin

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, a prominent national security hawk within his own party, broke with President Donald Trump on the issue of Russia, criticizing him for equating Vladimir Putin's actions with those of the United States.

Confronted with Putin's alleged killing of his opponents, Trump replied, "What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

Cotton pushed back against these remarks during an event at the American Enterprise Institute, telling the audience that he wouldn't have characterized Putin in that way.

"Vladimir Putin is KGB, always has been, always will be. He is an adversary of the United States. His intelligence services still refer to the United States as the main enemy, just like the Soviet Union used to refer to us during the Cold War," Cotton said Monday afternoon. "It would be a good thing if the United States and Russia had a better relationship. I am skeptical that a better relationship can occur on any basis other than strength and pressure on Russian aggression throughout the world."

The criticism reflects how Trump remains out of step with much of his own party on some issues of national security. Still, the Arkansas Republican argued that Trump's administration is filled with leaders who understand the threat Putin poses, and that Trump critics should look past his statements to his actions.

"Some of the policies on which he campaigned… rebuilding our military, accelerating and expanding our nuclear modernization, unleashing the potential of the shale revolution in the United States -- if you sit in Moscow, those are not good things," Cotton said.

--Tim Mak