(KSLA) - A day after President Donald Trump's historic and widely criticized meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, is sharing his thoughts on both men.
"Russia is not our friend, and they're not our ally," Kennedy said bluntly while speaking with KSLA News 12 by phone.
The lawmaker says there's no question that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
Kennedy describes Putin as someone who "mugs democracy just about every day." But the senator thinks Trump did the right thing by meeting with Putin.
"President Trump is absolutely correct that the world would be safer if the U.S. and Russia could establish a better relationship," Kennedy said. "The president did the right thing by trying to collaborate with [Putin]."
Unlike some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, Kennedy offered no criticism of Trump's press conference with Putin, following their meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
"There were some remarks that confused things," Kennedy stated. "The president clarified those in a press conference today."
Kennedy is referring to Tuesday's news conference at the White House during which Trump walked back his claims that Russia might not have been responsible for interfering in U.S. elections.
"Let me be totally clear in saying that, and I have said this many times, I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place. It could be other people, also. There are lots of people out there," said President Trump.
Kennedy thinks it's important that we collaborate, but not compromise, with Russia.
When asked whether he thinks Trump compromised Monday in Helsinki, Kennedy responded by saying, "I'm not here to critique the president."
The senator is one of eight Republican lawmakers who traveled to Russia to meet with government officials ahead of the Helsinki summit.
Kennedy describes the meetings in early July as "testy" and "tense."
"I went to Russia for two reasons. I wanted to look Russian officials in the eye and tell them to stop screwing in our elections. And I wanted to understand their economy better."
Kennedy says he also warned the Russians that if they again interfered with U.S. elections, Congress will impose more sanctions on the country.