Here’s the most amazing thing about Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for meddling in the U.S. election:
President Trump had been briefed that the indictment was imminent, before he left for crucial summit meetings with NATO allies and with Vladimir Putin in Europe. Yet, during his trip, Trump slammed the allies repeatedly even as he continued to flatter Putin. He insulted Angela Merkel and Theresa May, but said he’d accept Putin’s denials of Russian hacking.
On Thursday, Trump said “of course” he’d raise the issue of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election with Putin. Yet he quickly added: “What am I going to do? He may deny it. All I can do is say, ‘Did you? And, `Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it.”
In other words, what’s a poor president to do if Putin says, “It wasn’t me”? Never mind Mueller’s detailed evidence linking Russia’s military spy agency GRU with espionage against Americans. That didn’t stop Trump from calling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” on Friday just before the indictment was released.
The president’s performance proved he’s the perfect patsy for Putin when they meet one-on-one in Helsinki on Monday.
How so? Let’s start with the headline in the tabloid Daily Mirror when Trump arrived in London: “The Ego Has Landed.” Trump’s attacks on the indictment — and on our European allies — proved he’s unable to think beyond his personal concerns..
The White House immediately crowed that this indictment included no allegations against members of the Trump team and no charges (yet) that the hacking affected the election outcome. In other words, its only importance was that it (supposedly) exonerated Trump.
The White House refuses to admit that the document details how Putin attacked our country (Russia’s military intelligence agency wouldn’t do this without a green light from the top guy). These facts are confirmed by all top U.S. intelligence agencies. Yet no word from the White House warning the Kremlin: “Never again.”
If Trump is so eager to swallow Putin’s denials of Russian hacking – whether due to bribes, blackmail, bluster, or bloated bravado — what other nonsense will he eat in Helsinki? Putin’s claim that Crimea belongs to Russia? A fake deal where Putin pledges to kick Iran out of Syria? A nuclear pledge as fake as the one Trump obtained from Kim Jong Un?
More to the point, what will Putin deduce from Trump’s scornful treatment of his NATO allies just before meeting the Russian leader? What tips will the ex-KGB colonel glean from Trump’s performance in Brussels that he can use to play the president in Helsinki?
Trump’s bizarre swing from denunciation of NATO members to insincere praise has left the organization reeling. The problem is not his demand that members up their defense budgets but rather his threats that the United States might quit the organization. Those threats couldn’t be papered over by Trump’s claims of NATO unity in front of TV cameras at the summit’s end.
Clearly the U.S. president fails to grasp the importance of a unified NATO in confronting adversaries such as Russia or China. Indeed, he refuses to call Russia an adversary, preferring the word competitor, as if the Kremlin were just another real estate firm.
Nor could the president erase his blatant insults to Germany’s Angela Merkel by claiming at the summit’s end that their relationship was terrific. But worst of all was his betrayal of British Prime Minister Theresa May, giving an nasty interview to Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid the Sun that went live even as Trump was holding hands with May at a ceremonial dinner. The interview blasted her for not taking Trump’s advice on a “hard Brexit” from the European Union.
In the interview, Trump also praised one of her harshest conservative critics, Boris Johnson, the ex-foreign minister whose outre hairdo outdoes Trump’s and who deceived the British public about the supposed benefits of Brexit. The president was effectively encouraging British conservatives to boot May, at a perilous time in her negotiations over Britain’s exit from the European Union. Trump made nice to her at an awkward news conference Friday, but again praised Johnson while standing alongside May.
The British leader, on whose soil the Kremlin has been poisoning opponents, tried to firm up Trump’s spine before his summit with Putin. “We agreed that it is important to engage Russia from a position of strength and unity,” she insisted.
But, when it came to taking “a position of strength” with Putin, Trump would have none of it. At the press conference with May, when asked again about taking a tough stance on Russian hacking, Trump threw up his hands. He said: “I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee I did it, you got me’ [from Putin]. There won’t be a Perry Mason here. But I will absolutely firmly ask the question, and hopefully we’ll have a very good relationship with Russia.”
In other words, the “good relationship” Trump so avidly seeks trumps any concerns about U.S. security. Instead of defending our country against an adversary, he leaves us worrying what concessions he’ll make.