President Trump flew to Finland to meet with Vladimir Putin. Meetings between the U.S. and Russia are always critical, and it is important to route for our President to be successful, regardless of how we voted and our views on policy. Putin will never publicly admit Russia’s interference in our election or why he favored Trump to win. However, it was essential on many levels for President Trump to aggressively challenge Putin on this and ensure he dissuades Russia from further such action. We also needed Trump to successfully assert U.S. interests concerning Russia’s invasion of Georgia, invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, the Syrian crisis, Iran, arms control, etc. Putin, despite his criminal activity, is widely respected as a master craftsman. He has been in power for 20 years, thus possesses significantly more knowledge, experience, and skill than Trump. Most believed Putin would take advantage of Trump and must to the nation’s collective chagrin, he did.
If there ever was a need to prepare, this was it, yet Trump not only continued to refuse to read and properly prepare, he inexplicably and recklessly insisted on having a private meeting with Putin with no others in the room, not even his closest advisors. This placed Trump at a significant disadvantage and set conditions for Putin to extract secret commitments that could easily be against U.S. interests or otherwise ill-advised. The secrecy supported serious concerns that this was how collusion occurred. Did Putin provide policy or priority direction? Did Trump quietly give Putin the green light to meddle in the 2018 and 2020 elections, obviously to his benefit, especially considering his otherwise illogical refusal to accept our intelligence and law enforcement community’s assessments?
In advance of the meeting, President Trump set conditions foolishly ceding any position of strength to Putin, a grossly amateurish mistake in any negotiation. Communication and discussion is a good thing, but under the circumstances it was critical to first extract some concession from Putin. By agreeing to the meeting while Russia is under an international cloud of scrutiny immediately granted them readmittance to the world community without a single concession in return. He gave Russia a free pass for attacking its neighbors, annexing Crimea, meddling in our election, etc., contrary to the ongoing efforts of the international community to address Russian aggression. Instead, Trump created an even worse climate and demonstrated weakness by outrageously referring to our NATO/Europe allies as foes. This on the heels of the debacles Putin watched of Trump’s NATO and UK visits, where he again fell flat on his face and alienated key allies. Putin entered the meeting with exactly what he craved most – a weakened western alliance with frayed relations that he could exploit for his nefarious purposes.
Trump claimed he raised the issue of Russian election meddling with Putin. It is clear he did not raise it in any sincere or meaningful manner. First, Trump blames weaker relations on his predecessors and the Mueller investigation, as if somehow, we would ignore Russia’s attack on our electoral system. It is fair to argue that President Obama could have done more in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Syria, and Russian election interference. Putin respects strength. However, any Obama failure to react strongly enough is not the reason U.S./Russian relations are at a low point. The reason is Russian aggression against its neighbors, support for war crimes in Syria, and significant interference in our electoral systems. Trump’s ridiculous denials of the overwhelming evidence of Russian interference is the biggest source of destabilization in U.S.-Russia relations and our own national security. It is beyond shameful.
In the joint press coverage, responding to two separate reporters’ questions, Trump gave false and incoherent answers on this matter. Rather than answer the question relating to the evidence of Russia’s actions, he focused on the lack of evidence of collusion with his campaign. That is a separate matter that was irrelevant. He attacked the DNC, Clinton campaign, and Clinton email server issue, which had absolutely no place in a crucial meeting with a dangerous adversary determined to hurt our country. Trump continued to simply accept Putin’s denial, again outright dismissing the unanimous, strongly proven findings of the entire intelligence community.
President Trump was asked straight up if he would take the opportunity right then and there to tell Putin to cease any further election meddling against us and Trump refused, again claiming he believed Putin’s denial. Trump also welcomed Putin’s outrageous suggestion that Robert Mueller or DoJ could send a request to Russia to interview the indicted Russians on their behalf. Russian officials would conduct interviews and share the results. Trump praised the offer in an extreme example of his naivete and how beholden he is to Putin. There is zero chance any prosecutor or investigator would ever think for even a second that was a legitimate option. That was such an absurd idea it defies reason. It was akin to allowing a charged rapist to conduct his own DNA testing of himself and his victim. Rex Tillerson, maybe you were right…
Trump’s performance was atrocious, unacceptable, and entirely contrary to U.S. interests. He stood next to a hostile, ruthless dictator and reprehensibly took his side over the entire U.S. intelligence community and Congressional leadership, outright denied Russia’s interference in our electoral systems, and thus acquiesced to continued Russian attacks against our country. Trump bragged that after his four hours with Putin, everything suddenly changed, and relations were now good. In true Trump fashion, following this meeting, as he has done after his previous international meetings, he offered grandiose assessments of success. Were it only the truth because so much rides on the outcomes of these sessions. Unfortunately, his claims again lacked any merit. He boasts to the extent of complete dishonesty.
While it is abundantly clear to anyone reviewing the evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and strongly favored Trump to win, it has not been as clear to what extent there was a conspiracy involving members of the Trump campaign. Yes, there were meetings to discuss opposition research, but was there an organized effort to impact the electoral systems and did it rise to the level of Trump himself? It has been very hard to reconcile Trump’s ongoing refusal to accept the intelligence community’s assessment, refusal to challenge Putin or Russia, and refusal to assert the national security interests of the country. Taking it all together, adding in the appalling results of this meeting, and then considering the respective body language between the two leaders, the result became clear. There is an unholy connection between Trump and Putin. That is the most logical conclusion to explain Trump’s subservience.
Unfortunately for the American people, President Trump lost again, as he did after the G20, G7, Kim Jong Un, China, and NATO meetings – all disasters. Consequently, expectations could not have been lower for this meeting, yet he failed miserably, causing even more damage. Putin let with a tremendous victory on all fronts. President Trump could refrain from attacking our own country, assailing our allies, lavishly praising our enemies, and catastrophically failing to assert U.S. interests. He has proven himself woefully incompetent, incredibly weak, and seriously hazardous to national security on any world stage. It is unfathomable to think any U.S. President would stand on foreign soil, support a hostile adversary over our own government, and denigrate our intelligence community, democratic institutions, etc.
Trump’s continuing stream of actions against our own country must cease and it is long past time for Republicans to act and act they must. Simple tweets of disappointment are meaningless. They are gone in minutes, yet the severe, irreparable damage to our national security grows. They all swore an oath to the nation, not partisan politics. Republican leaders feign inability, asking what the public would have them do. There is plenty – they control funding for his agencies and programs, passing his agenda, confirmations, and the ability to exert their own influence. This is of paramount concern and they can affect Presidential action. At a minimum, Congress, with significant Republican votes, must immediately announce support for the intelligence community, DoJ, and FBI.
In any case, it should now be clear to all that Trump does not care about the oath he took or even about his job as President. How will Republicans work with Democrats to address this calamity? I have previously stated that talk of impeachment was premature, especially prior to Mueller finishing. The focus needed to be on issues and policy. After this latest debacle, one could argue Trump has crossed into the areas of high crimes and misdemeanors against the U.S. Some used the word “treason” to describe his serious, ongoing actions against our national interests. It may just come to impeachment sooner rather than later to protect the nation…