Forget about everything else, Monday’s post-meeting presser with President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was about one thing: Trump’s loyalty to Putin and his total disregard for the American intelligence community’s findings on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.
“There was no collusion. I beat Hillary Clinton easily,” said Trump, totally ignoring the mounting evidence that something was amiss with the 2016 presidential election.
In what was truly a bizarre, meandering spectacle, Trump was asked, point-blank, if he believed U.S. intelligence and if he would tell President Putin that interfering with U.S. elections is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the future.
Trump’s used the opportunity to attack the FBI for not taking custody of Clinton’s hacked servers:
“Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying…my people came to me, [Director of National Security] Dan Coats came to me and some others came to me and said they said 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…what happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails?…I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails.”
Having slammed the FBI for what he perceives as its shortcomings, the president then praised Putin’s offer to have his investigators help investigate the role of the 12 Russians hackers indicted on Friday for hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s servers.
“I think that’s an incredible offer,” said Trump, who also called the Thursday testimony of FBI agent Peter Strozk “a disgrace” to the FBI and country.
Putin, who at another point in the presser admitted that he wanted Trump to win the election, chimed in to say that Russian entities accused of meddling did not constitute the Russian state.
He also did not deny claims whether Russian intelligence had a dossier that might compromise Trump, saying simply that he did not know that Trump was in Russia at the time the dossier is said to have been compiled, since it was before he announced his bid for the presidency.
Former CIA Director John Brennan also said it “exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.'”
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Before even walking into his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, President Trump had already put the United States in a position of weakness, tweeting:
Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
The reason for this meetings with Russia, a country that is neither a trade nor security partner, remains unclear, though it’s possible that what might come out of this, in the long run is that Trump would accept Russia’s illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in exchange for Russia’s withdrawal from Syria.
During the press conference, Putin said Russia and the United States could cooperate for peace in Syria, where Russia and Iran have been siding with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Putin floated the idea of a deal in Syria as a security deal for Israel, which has been increasingly active in the Syria, bombing Iranian targets and clamping down security in the Golan Heights.
Up until Monday’s peculiar events, the Trump administration had positioned Russia as a security “competitor,” framing its entire Nuclear Posture Review and the development of new nuclear capabilities around the Russian threat.
Regardless of what comes of the meeting, the fact that it took place at all is a win for Putin, who has been isolated, and has seen his country sanctioned, since Russia took Crimea.
Prior to going into the closed-door session, Trump said the he thought the United States will ultimately have “an extraordinary relationship” with Russia.
“Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said.
The president did not feel the same about the U.S.’s European allies.
This comes on the tail of a heck of a European trip during which the president took shots at U.S. security and trade partners — classifying them as “foes” in a Sunday interview with Face the Nation. His presence at NATO left the 29-country military alliance that has served the United States, Canada and Europe for 70 years, in tatters.
He also insulted British Prime Minister Theresa May in a tabloid interview before his plane even touched down in London on Thursday.