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WASHINGTON — A senior administration official says President Donald Trump was warned in briefing materials to refrain from congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election victory, but he did so anyway.
The official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that aides had included a section in Trump's briefing materials for the call stating in all-caps: "DO NOT CONGRATULATE."
A White House official did not respond to NBC News when asked about the accuracy of the story, but said, "If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the president's briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal."
A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is "frustrated and deeply disappointed" with the leak of the briefing notes for the president's call with Putin.
The "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" message was first reported Tuesday by The Washington Post.
It was unclear whether Trump, who prefers oral briefings, read the talking points prepared by his national security team before Tuesday's call. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster briefed the president in person before the call in the White House residence.
The State Department spokeswoman noted that some people were paid to turn out to vote in Russia and opposition leaders were intimidated or jailed.
Some Republican lawmakers are have criticized Trump for calling Putin to congratulate him
Sen. John McCain of Arizona said, "An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections." McCain's Arizona colleague, Sen. Jeff Flake, labeled Trump's congratulatory call "odd" while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said calling Putin "wouldn't have been high on my list."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted that President Barack Obama made a similar call at the time of Putin's last electoral victory. Huckabee said, "We don't get to dictate how other countries operate."
In the call Trump didn't raise Russia's meddling in U.S. elections or its suspected involvement in the poisoning of a former spy in Britain.