Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday praised President Donald Trump for projecting "American strength" during his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
At an event in St. Louis on Thursday, Pence defended Trump against accusations that he kowtowed to the Russian president by publicly doubting the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
"President Trump even met earlier this week with the president of the Russian Federation," Pence told the crowd. "Saying, in his words, that he would rather take a political hit in the pursuit of peace than risk peace in the pursuit of politics."
"Make no mistake about it, President Trump and I support our great intelligence agencies and the courageous men and women who lead them," the vice president insisted. "As the president said, we accept our intelligence community's conclusions about the 2016 election. But after years of the failed reset of the last administration and capitulation to Russia, under President Trump, we've met Russian aggression with American strength and action!"
Pence pointed to Russian sanctions that the Congress forced Trump to implement as evidence of American strength. He also noted that the Trump administration had expelled Russian diplomats and was offering missile defense systems to NATO countries.
"President Donald Trump will always be willing to pursue peace," Pence added. "But under his leadership, it will always be peace through strength. It's about promises made and promises kept."
Listen to the audio of Pence's speech below.