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Audience bursts out laughing after GOP Senate candidate says Trump is ‘standing up’ to Russia

The Hill logo The Hill 7/22/2018 Morgan Gstalter

a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by The Hill Republican Senate nominee Corey Stewart (Va.) was interrupted by audience laughter during a debate on Saturday after saying President Trump "stands up" to Russia.

Stewart, the controversial chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, was participating in a debate against incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

He was attempting to attack Kaine's responses to acts of Russian aggression during the Obama administration, such as when Russians shot down an aircraft over Ukraine, or invaded Crimea.

"We have a president who is standing up to the Russians," Stewart said.

He was met by loud laughter from both the audience and his opponent.

Trump faced fierce backlash from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle last week following his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The president was criticized for failing to denounce Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

He later walked back his comments and said he "misspoke."

"I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place," Trump said Tuesday, reading from a prepared statement.

"Could be other people also. A lot of people out there," he then added.

Trump has insisted that there has been "no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia."

Supporters of the administration's policy toward Russia point out that Trump has armed forces in Ukraine; the administration approved an additional $200 million in defense funds for Ukraine this week to fight Russia-backed rebels there. U.S. forces have also clashed with Russian forces in Syria.

Stewart has been a vocal Trump supporter and previously worked as the co-chairman for his presidential campaign in Virginia.

Kaine was Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's running mate in the 2016 presidential race.

A poll from the end of June found that Kaine led Stewart by 18 points.

Stewart is known for his controversial views, including his defense of Confederate monuments.

The chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia resigned earlier this month over Stewart's success in the primary race.

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