Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki on Thursday, July 16, for private talks, which Trump said would be about, among other things, nuclear weapons. Trump’s treatment of the United States in his remarks following the meeting, however, was a lot like a parent throwing his child – and all of his child’s friends – under the bus in favor of the kid who has been bullying his child.
“He said he didn’t do it, so I believe him,” is, in effect, what Donald Trump said about Putin in his response to a question about Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ignoring history, Trump went on to blame previous administrations for the poor relationship between the U.S. and Russia.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!,” Trump tweeted on July 15.
Perhaps if the bully (Putin in this story) were an Eagle Scout and an honor student known for helping little old ladies across the street (or for not cozying up with the Afghan Taliban), we might find it plausible that a parent/Trump would take the bully’s word over that of his own child (or, say, United States Intelligence officers). Maybe if the bully were not widely known to be a thug (or a member of the KGB), jaws would not have dropped. Perhaps if the bully and his gang didn’t have a long history of ill-intentioned deeds toward others (namely, the U.S. and its democratic process, in this story), we could give him the benefit of the doubt.
U.S. intelligence has overwhelming (and supported) evidence of Russian collusion, and a U.S. grand jury has just indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on election-related charges. Trump, however, is sticking with Putin’s story.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people. But I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. Dan Coats [the director of national intelligence] came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Even many Trump supporters, however, have found Trump’s position unpalatable at best, treasonous at worst.
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Though it’s true that McCain has long been at odds with Trump and what he stands for, other Republicans who have historically supported Trump took issue with how Trump handled the meeting.
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Unless one is highly skilled at self-deception and the art of the spin, it seems nearly impossible not to be horrified by Trump’s remarks regarding the history of U.S. relations with Russia, who is to blame, who our friends are in the world, and, most especially, Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
That is where Vice President Mike Pence comes in. “The truth is,” said Pence, “Over the last week” (Note: During that same week, at the NATO Summit, Trump also referred to the EU – among our closest allies – as our foes), “the world saw that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world…What the world saw, and what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first.”
It’s not clear what Pence meant by “putting the prosperity and security of America first.” Perhaps he was actually referring to profiting from the branding of “America First.” Clearly, the phrase, as it relates to the Trump -Putin meeting, is not to be taken literally.
Lawmakers Respond to Trump-Putin Remarks | EWTN [2018-07-16]
Trump-Putin Joint Press Conference | VOA News [2018-07-16]