During a Fox News interview on Tuesday, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was asked to respond to controversial comments President Trump made earlier in the day about his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gardner responded by flatly denying Trump actually meant what he said.
Just before boarding Air Force One, Trump, who repeatedly attacked the NATO alliance on Twitter on Tuesday, told reporters that his meeting with Putin “may be the easiest” he has during his trip to Europe.
“So I have NATO; I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil; and I have Putin,” Trump said, referring to meetings he has during his trip to Europe. “Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?”
Trump says that between NATO, Theresa May, and Putin that his meeting with Putin "may be the easiest of them all." (via FOX) pic.twitter.com/Uf8e0yDQU5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 10, 2018
Trump is currently under criminal investigation for possibly colluding with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. At a time when Russia is an international pariah because of its invasions of neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine, the president of the United States has repeatedly denigrated the country’s historical allies in Europe while expressing hope that relations with Russia will become closer.
Though the U.S. intelligence community and a bipartisan group of senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee both concluded Russia waged a disinformation on Trump’s behalf, Trump has indicated he accepts Putin’s denials at face value. Instead of blaming Putin for invading Ukraine — an act of war that prompted the G7 to expel Russia from the group — Trump has attempted to pin blame on former President Obama.
It wasn’t so long ago that Republicans were hawkish about Russia. So Trump’s rhetoric about Putin puts GOP members of Congress like Gardner in a tough place.
But instead of trying to engage with what Trump actually said during the Fox News interview, Gardner pretended Trump actually meant the opposite of what he said.
After being played a video clip of Trump’s remarks and being asked whether what he said is “true,” Gardner uttered an uncomfortable chuckle and said, “No. I think the president knows that’s not true as well.”
“I think he’s simply trying to say to our great NATO allies and friends, ‘let’s make sure that we’re all rowing in the same direction, so to speak. Let’s make sure that we’re living up to our expectations and obligations,'” Gardner said. “I think the president knows the challenges he has with Vladimir Putin, we all know that, and I hope that when he meets with our NATO allies he will talk about the violations of international law that Russia has created, and indeed, it sounds like he may have an opportunity at some point to even address that very same concern with Vladimir Putin himself.”
While Gardner might think America’s NATO allies are “great,” Trump repeatedly attacked the alliance in a string of tweets on Tuesday in which he also revealed profound confusion about how the organization is funded.
And despite what Gardner what have you believe, Trump does not seem to be eager to address human rights violations or election meddling with Putin. During an interview with Maria Bartiromo that aired on July 1, Trump was asked if he’ll “mention the meddling” when he meets with Putin. Trump said he would, but then immediately pivoted to spreading conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“I’ll mention it,” Trump said. “I’d like to see some answers about why we didn’t take the server, why the FBI didn’t take the server from the DNC.”
Late last month, Trump — ignoring the conclusions of his own intelligence community — indicated he believes that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election because that’s what Putin told him.
“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” Trump tweeted. “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”