With Trump playing the part of Putin's puppet

Trump (left) and Putin at their joint press conference following their "meeting" in Helsinki

| Having spread chaos in his wake in Brussels and London, Trump moved on to Scotland to play golf at his resort and rest up from the ordeal of dealing with our "foes" at Nato and the UK. And not only that, it was an opportunity to suck more money out of the US Treasury. Depending on whose reporting you look at, the US paid Trump's golf resort $60,000 (Money Magazine), £53,000 (The Guardian), or $77,000 (Reuters) for staying at his own property.

It was when Trump got to Helsinki that things got very interesting, starting with a private tête-a-tête with Putin that lasted over two hours. We have no record of what was said or promised and by whom in that meeting, because there was no one else present except the two translators. You can be sure, however, that the Russians know very well what was said because they certainly have a tape. Did anybody check that Russian translator's satchel? Or look for a microphone and transmitter in the pen and pad that Putin carried with him?

During the press conference Trump acted all meek and subservient, and in his remarks had no unkind word to say to or about Putin.

It was the question period that really ignited the room. Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press asked a simple question, bluntly: "Who do you believe", Putin or US intelligence agencies. It was Trump's answer that gobsmacked everybody:

My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats 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. . . . I have confidence in both parties.

Later in the press conference Trump went back to his favorite attack on Mueller's "total witch hunt" and gratuitously railed that ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok is a "disgrace". He threw in for good measure several of his greatest hits about the electoral college, Hillary Clinton's email server, and Barack Obama. All the while, Putin, who the intelligence community says ordered the attack on our election, looked on, barely able to contain his glee.

Ah, yes, the old "fine people, on both sides" trope. Reaction to the press conference was swift, and it was harsh. Predictably, John McCain went straight for the jugular:

Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

Unfortunately, most of McCain's colleagues in the Senate — and the House for that matter — confined themselves to tweets expressing sadness or disappointment. Indeed, an "I'm disappointed" tweet has become the equivalent of "thoughts and prayers," and it is equally effective at changing anything.

Since then, Trump has half-heartedly tried to clean up after himself, but as he always does, he circles back to where he started and completely undermines what his staff has sent him out to do. He read a statement (it may as well have been part of a hostage video) in which he said, "I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place."

But, wait for it! "Could be other people also. A lot of people out there. There was no collusion at all, and people have seen that, and they've seen that strongly."

And still later, Trump tried to clean up the clean up of the clean up.... It's now anybody's guess where this will go. One thing is certain, it is making a lot of people very nervous. The term "national security crisis" is being bandied about, as is the word "treason" and the word "betrayal."

In perspective

But lest anyone wallow too long in the depths of despair, it seems helpful to remind everyone what a real presidential crisis looks like. Nearly four years ago, President Obama appeared in the White House briefing room to make some remarks wearing a — gasp! —  tan suit. I was reminded of this by seeing a photo of Mitch McConnell wearing a tan suit in the Senate this week. What a difference four years makes!

Barack Obama, August 2014
Mitch McConnell, July 2018

Republicans whose heads exploded four years ago over Obama's tan suit, have had nothing to say about Mitch McConnell's tan suit.


Fiasco in Finland — slide show

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Last updated on Jul 20, 2018



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