LEWISTON — Democratic U.S. House candidate Jared Golden said Tuesday that  Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin displayed “astonishingly weak” leadership in his comments about what happened at the Helsinki Summit.

Golden, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said Poliquin “fails to acknowledge that Russia poses a serious threat to American democracy, and American security interests abroad, particularly in the Middle East, including Syria and Iran.” 

“Now, more than ever, America needs leaders who are strong on national security and who will put the interests of our country above political loyalties,” said Golden, one of three challengers hoping to win Maine’s 2nd District seat in November’s general election.

The Helsinki Summit unleashed a firestorm of criticism aimed at President Donald Trump for refusing, in a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to agree with U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 election and wanted Trump to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

On Tuesday, after taking flak from GOP and Democratic members of Congress and experts, Trump said he accepts the finding that Russia sought to influence the American presidential race. But, he immediately added, it “could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

Poliquin issued a statement within hours of the Helsinki news conference that said, “While we should seek to improve the situation in Syria and seek cooperation on other issues, we must also recognize the consensus that Russia did try to interfere in our election.”

“We must consider they may try to do it again. We must all collectively as a nation work to thwart any such attempt so it never happens again,” the two-term House member said.

Golden wasn’t Poliquin’s only opponent to take issue with the congressman’s comments.

Independent candidate Tiffany Bond also criticized Poliquin.

“Say it Bruce: Russia is at war with us,” the Portland attorney said in a statement on Twitter.

Bond said Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and is still attacking the United States’ democracy.

Bond told Poliquin to “find your courage” and “quit being quiet because it is financially advantageous to you.”

She said independents and Republicans “have something in common with Democrats. Russia is attacking us. We must stand united.”

Golden, who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said, “There is undeniable evidence that Russia interfered in our elections.”

“Congressman Poliquin is unwilling to take strong and clear positions on tough issues,” Golden said.

“From important health care votes to his unwillingness to hold leaders of his own party accountable, when push comes to shove, Bruce Poliquin equivocates,” Golden said.

He added, “Mainers deserve a straight shooter who is open and honest, and who will lead from the front when it matters most.”

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Democratic U.S. House candidate Jared Golden (File photo)

Independent U.S. House candidate Tiffany Bond (File photo)