Though this fact has been repeated endlessly since 2016, it is important to remember that the true danger Trump posed vis a vis Putin was not that he would seek out to collude with a foreign government but rather that he was susceptible to being manipulated. We were reminded of this fact again today when Trump and Putin stood next to each other at a joint press conference, one showing his dislike for American democracy and another his ignorance of it. If you have not yet watched the conference or read the transcript, I encourage you to do so. It is a frightening look at what happens when an egotistical imbecile is elected to a nation’s highest office. Here, I will breakdown the most significant moments from the conference and their implications.
Trump’s opening remarks are starkly more coherent than his portion of the Q&A. We are again shown that Trump can be made to appear almost normal when given the proper coaching and rehearsal (a fact that has been noticed by those who have deposed him before). However, when he goes off book, he really goes off book. He begins by saying that Russia and the US need to “open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world,” and claimed that, though politically risky, he was making the grander, moral choice to meet with Putin in this historic summit. He continued, “Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia, the United States for the greater good of all and this was a very constructive day.” Not only is this sentence an incoherent regurgitation of his practiced speech, it is factually not true. The “longstanding tradition of diplomacy” between the two nations has been marked with an earned distrust of the Russian government. Human rights violations, the amassing of nuclear resources, close relationships with foreign dictators like Bashar al Assad, all of these factors have lead American leaders to treat Russia and Putin with wariness. Trump, uneducated in American and international history and immune to advice, ignores these facts. He instead chose to stand next to Putin as the dictator spoke of a need to “overcome humanitarian crises.” Let’s ask Ukrainians, Crimerians, and Syrians what their thoughts are on Putin’s humanitarian compassion. After these bizarre opening remarks, the floor is opened to reporters from both countries and the wheels really come off the cart.
A Reuters reporter asked Trump to respond to his Tweet this morning saying, “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Reporter Jeff Mason asked if Trump holds Russia at all accountable and what Trump considers them responsible for, to which Trump replied, “Yes, I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish...I think that the, the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know virtually none of it related to the campaign.” Here we have the President of the United States standing next to a man who we know conspired to influence our election claiming that the Mueller investigation is the root of chaos in our democracy. He claims the probe has kept our nations apart, as though one is a Capulet and one is a Montague, both destined to be together. Trump never addresses exactly what he holds Russia responsible for, but says that there was no collusion and nothing has illuminated relationships between Russian agents and the Trump campaign. Nothing except indictments against Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and 25 Russians.
Putin is then asked to explain why Americans and the president should believe his statement that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election given the evidence provided by US intelligence agencies. Trump steps in and says, “There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign and every time you hear all of these you know 12 and 14 (indicted Russians) - stuff that has nothing to do and frankly they admit - these are not people involved in the campaign.” A couple things: there were many people to collude with. The relationship between Emin and Aras Agalarov and Trump and Trump Jr. has been documented and testified to before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rob Goldstone, the lawyer for the Agalarovs, offered to connect Trump with Putin and “provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate HIllary in her dealings with Russia.” Also, collusion was attempted.There was a meeting between a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton and Trump’s campaign manager, national security advisor, son and son-in-law. Just because the outcome of the meeting was not as fruitful as the Trump camp hoped does not relieve them of the intent to conspire with a foreign government.
Putin then chimes in with, “you can trust no one - if you take this - where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?” Always in pursuit of a Bond villain demeanor, Putin is literally showing us how little he cares for Trump. Putin has gotten exactly what he wants and in doing so has fooled Trump into thinking they have entered into a relationship. But as Putin freely admits, “you guys said it, not me.” He is beholden to know one and has used Trump because he was easy to use, not because they share some sort of maniacal plan. And once again, we are reminded that this was the danger all along. At one point, the reporter point blank asks Putin, “Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?” Putin replies, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S. Russia relationship back to normal.” This is as close as we will ever come to seeing Putin admit to orchestrating interference in our elections, and if you ask me it is already way too close for comfort.
The last point I want to cover is the point in the conference where Trump is asked if he believes US intelligence findings regarding Russian election interference or if he believes Putin. The reporter from AP asks, “Would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you want him to never do it again?” Trump’s brain seems to misfire in response. He jumps back and forth between thoughts, mentioning the server at the DNC and the FBI and the server again. He then says, “My people came to me, Dan Coates, 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. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.” It’s hard to begin to respond to this statement. Trump’s confidence rests more in a hostile foreign government than with the Director of national intelligence. Despite unbiased reports from 17 intelligence agencies, Trump is too cowardly to denounce Russia’s actions. His spine may well have been replaced by a string designed for Putin’s manipulation. He says he doesn’t see any reason for Russia to interfere in our elections, all the while giving Putin everything he hoped to gain.
So there they stood, the dictator and the idiot, each believing they were in charge but only one of them correctly. The remarks made by Trump at today’s conference were nothing short of treasonous, and while I will often endure being called “over dramatic” or a “snowflake,” in this instance I shall not. If you weren’t convinced before, today was your wake up call. If we don’t impeach this man, if we don’t remove him from power, the political landscape of the world will change and we will have no one to blame but ourselves, for we will have let it happen.
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