Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin standing side by side for a media conference after the so called Helsinki Summit. Sort of what you’d expect from two world leaders. But with Trump you can only expect the unexpected.
No Real Beef with Vlad or the Russians
Now as a South African I don’t really have much of a beef with Vlad and the Russians, after all they were good to my comrades when the apartheid regime created havoc in the land of my birth. And I have a huge crush on Anna Netrebko. And we are partners in BRICS. But as a politics junkie I know plenty about the Cold War and the deep divide between the US and Russia and the almost hysterical anti-Russia sentiments that lie shallow in the United States.
I’m reluctant to believe much of anything coming from any anti-espionage agencies because I’ve read too much John Le Carre and the likes so I take the Russian meddling accusations in the United States’ 2016 Elections with a pinch of salt. Although I am sure Trump must have had some help from somewhere besides the gerrymandering of the elections in certain states. And as I spend a lot of time every day/night on CNN, I’ve listened carefully to the ongoing Mueller Investigation and Donald Trumps’ “it’s a hoax” retorts.
Political High Drama in Helsinki
But last night on 16 July I saw high political drama like I’ve never seen before. Donald Trump was speaking in his sing-song voice that he uses sometimes when he wants to convey gravitas, and he literally betrayed his own country. The press conference occurred after Putin and Trump held a meeting in which they were joined only by translators.
He threw his justice department, intelligence services and advisors right under the bus and took the side of Vladimir Putin, the crafty former KGB agent who played Trump like a yo-yo.
The New York Times described it as “The Summit Putin has Dreamed of for years” Washington Post, “The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow.”
News Anchors Disbelief
Through the night I listened to various CNN Anchors almost splutter with disbelief as they replayed the clips over and over again of Donald Trump siding with Putin over US intelligence.
Anderson Cooper opened his panel discussion on CNN with the words: “You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly than I’ve ever seen — an extraordinary press conference.”
.@AndersonCooper: I keep thinking about Ronald Reagan, the importance he placed on American exceptionalism as a voice for those whose voices had been taken away.
I just wonder what people in places living under tyranny think of America, if they’ve heard the words of Pres. Trump. pic.twitter.com/OA6gUdVyUU
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) July 17, 2018
Cooper wasn’t the only incredulous anchor: “All of you who are watching today will be able to tell your friends, family, your children, your grandchildren, you were watching a moment of history,” said George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, adding: “It may not be for the right reasons.”
“They were almost chummy, as if they were allies,” said a dumbfounded Norah O’Donnell of CBS News. “The way they talked about one another and how they wanted to move forward together in the future.”
According to CNN “US President Donald Trump, in a stunning rebuke of the US intelligence community, declined on Monday to endorse the US government’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying he doesn’t “see any reason why” Russia would be responsible.
Instead, Trump — standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin — touted Putin’s vigorous denial and pivoted to complaining about the Democratic National Committee’s server and missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s personal account.”
Yes, on the international stage Donald Trump reverted to his campaign issues – some kind of safety blanked for him – and whined about Hillary Clinton’s lost emails and some server that he hasn’t been able to inspect.
Putin’s “Interesting Idea”
Trump called it an “interesting idea”.
Apparently, the Russian president suggested that he send his own people to investigate the 12 named Russian employees of the GRU (the country’s military intelligence agency) indicted Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller. They were charged in connection with the hack of the email server of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the publishing of hacked emails under the guise of “lone hacker” Guccifer 2.
A wily, almost cocky Putin, ducked and dived and obfuscated like he does so well and said he’d allow members of Mueller’s team into Russia only if the US allowed him to reciprocate — to allow Russian operatives into the US. Specifically, Putin mentioned allegations against financier and vocal Putin critic Bill Browder — whom he accused of funnelling (along with his associates) $400 million in donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Crazy day today as Putin wants to swap 12 Russian GRU agents who hacked the US election for me in his meeting with Trump in Helsinki. Here’s my take for @TIME on why I’ve gotten Putin so rattled and what he’s really afraid of https://t.co/FoJkJKtLhl
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) July 17, 2018
The Media, Democrats and Partisan Critics
Journalists remained a target of Mr. Trump on Monday — standing beside Mr. Putin, he lumped in “the media” with Democrats and “partisan critics” as obstructionists — but the most revealing exchanges at the summit meeting were prompted by questions from the American news media.
The questioners selected by the White House — Jeff Mason of Reuters and Jonathan Lemire of The Associated Press — worked to get answers from Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin on the most significant topics surrounding the meeting. And many agree that these two journalists asked President Putin the questions that the American President should have asked him.
Will this be the day that Trump went too far? As condemnation pours in from US lawmakers across the aisle, it doesn’t look good for the former reality star. But we know how persuasive he is and he will probably spin his way out of this mess with a little help from his Friends.