Washington wonders who dropped the dime on Trump's call to Putin

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Russia's minority Catholic Church has pledged to help build a civil society after the nation's March 18 election and called on President Vladimir Putin to "justify voters' confidence" after his victory.

"I called President Putin of Russian Federation to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also)".

In a pair of tweets on his call with Mr Putin, Mr Trump said United States news organisations "wanted me to excoriate him".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Wednesday that Russian Federation had wanted to send "a sign" with the nerve agent attack on Skripal to warn defectors that they can not escape Moscow's power.

Mr Putin was re-elected by a landslide, with more than 76% of the vote, for a fourth six-year term.

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The phone call between the two leaders coming on the same day 23 Russian diplomas boarded a flight from London to Moscow, expelled from the United Kingdom after Russia apparently used nerve gas to poison a former spy and his daughter on British soil.

The White House, which has suffered frequent leaks - at times of notable severity - said in a statement Wednesday it would be a "fireable offence and likely illegal" to leak Trump's briefing papers to the press, after word emerged that the president had been warned in briefing materials not to congratulate the Russian president on his re-election.

Trump on to blast his predecessor, saying, "Bush tried to get along, but didn't have the "Smarts".

It's not clear if Trump read the guidance ahead of the call.

For Trump, such spur-of-the-moment remarks to foreign leaders are not unusual, and often have had little lasting meaning, officials said, noting that he often issues invitations to a meal or a meeting.

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The former USA presidential candidate John McCain was quick to criticise Trump for his failure to raise allegations of widespread voter irregularities.

The president received backlash after he picked up the phone to congratulate Putin despite the fact that there is an ongoing investigation regarding the supposed collusion between Trump and the Russians.

US President Donald Trump stridently defended his much-criticized overtures to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin Wednesday, as White House anxiety over his embrace spilled into full public view.

The White House said in an official statement Wednesday: "If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the President's briefing papers". Senator John McCain said "an American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections".

Then came the follow-up questions: Who in the tight circle of aides aware of that instruction leaked it to the Washington Post?

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The phone call also came just days after the United States imposed sanctions against 19 Russian nationals and five entities over Russian interference in the USA elections.