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Trump ignores Salisbury attack in call with Putin and congratulates him on election win instead

Trump’s phone call will have dismayed British diplomats and is a significant rebuff for Theresa May. Credit: PA

It is surely positive that the American and Russian presidents spoke to each other yesterday.

But what was said during that call - and more importantly what was not said- is pretty shocking, certainly for Downing Street.

After a nerve agent attack carried out on Britain soil, almost certainly sanctioned by President Putin himself, you would imagine that Trump would express his solidarity with the UK and his personal outrage before moving on to different issues.

Not a bit of it. Sarah Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, acknowledged that the attack wasn’t even mentioned in the phone call. That revelation led to head shaking in the White House briefing room. The doyenne of Washington’s diplomatic press corps delivered a six-word tweet of disbelief:

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Trump’s phone call will have dismayed British diplomats and is a significant rebuff for Theresa May. So much for a coalition of allied nations that would now ostracize Russia as a rogue nation. Not even the American President was prepared to raise it or to let it interrupt his plan for a summit with Putin.

In fact, Trump is aiming for two high-stakes summits in the coming weeks: with Kim Jong-un in May and with Putin at an unconfirmed date. These are the very two leaders who have authorized nerve agent attacks on their enemies (in Kuala Lumpur airport and Salisbury respectively).

Overnight, there has been another development on the same phone call that is almost as stunning. The Washington Post is reporting that Trump’s national security advisers specifically told him - even wrote it down on paper - that under no circumstances should the President congratulate Putin on his re-election.

Trump ignored the advice and congratulated Putin anyway, normalizing the Russian election and no doubt thrilling Moscow’s public relations operation.

One final thought on this: Very few people have access to the notes given to a US President before a highly sensitive phone call. The fact that the details were leaked to the Washington Post showed there is deep dissent very close to the Oval Office itself.

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So, the President yesterday baffled a whole lot of people. His own advisers; Congressional leaders; the foreign policy establishment; the British.

In fact, almost everyone is upset. Except, of course, Vladimir Putin.