Well, the big meeting went about as well as expected. Here’s the gist.
Trump: “Election meddling?”
What a sad tragic moment for this country, as its so-called president flees confrontation and puts American greatness in the rear view mirror.
To quote conservative commentator Stephen Hayes of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, “Russia waged a persistent, hostile campaign against the United States in an effort to affect the outcome of the election — or at least influence perceptions of it. And the current administration doesn’t seem to care.”
Of course it doesn’t. The beneficiary of Russia’s hostile campaign declared yesterday that he was “honored” to meet the orchestrator of the hostile campaign. He had signaled, even before the meeting, that he was inclined not to confront the man he honors; in his words, the massive penetration of America’s democracy “could have been other people in other countries. Nobody really knows for sure.”
“Nobody really knows for sure…” Putin couldn’t have scripted that line better. How awesome it is for Putin to have, in the palm of his hand, a weak U.S. president who publicly disrespects U.S. intelligence agencies.
Those agencies, 17 of them, concluded in a January report: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election…Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.” But Trump still says he doesn’t necessarily believe it.
We don’t know for sure what Trump and Putin said to each other, because the only other people in the room were the translators, U.S. oil baron (and nominal secretary of state) Rex Tillerson, and Russian foreign minister (and savvy propagandist) Sergey Lavrov. Tillerson said later that Trump asked Putin about Russia’s election meddling “more than once.” Lavrov said later that Trump told Putin that the election meddling issue was being exaggerated by the American media; Lavrov also said that Trump accepted Putin’s meddling denials. Tillerson sort of confirmed some of that; he said there was “not a lot of relitigating things from the past.”
I suppose we’re supposed to believe Tillerson’s spin, which is only slightly less pitiful than Lavrov’s. On the other hand, to quote former George W. Bush adviser Matthew Dowd: “Unfortunately at this point I don’t believe anything from this President or his White House unless presented with verifiable credible evidence…Because of recent history, I can understand why many folks would believe the Russian’s version of the meeting as opposed to this White House.”
The upshot is that Putin’s lapdog fetched Putin’s slippers.
It’s clear, even from Tillerson’s version of the conversation, that Putin won’t pay any price for the unprecedented invasion of our political process. According to Tillerson, Trump simply wants to “move forward.” Trump apparently voiced no concern about Russia’s capacity to penetrate the 2018 and 2020 elections, and showed no interest in prioritizing any measures to protect the balloting. His sole gesture was to suggest that he and Putin create a framework for talking in the future about cybersecurity; in Tillerson’s words, Trump and Putin “agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats.”
“Agreed to explore creating a framework…” A worthless fig leaf that Putin will stomp at the first opportunity – with no pushback from the weak president, who by now had probably forgotten the whole exchange.
In other news, Neville Chamberlain has gotten Hitler to agree to explore a framework for dealing with future military invasions.
To quote conservative Stephen Hayes again: “A framework for understanding? Not consequences? Not sanctions? Not even the threat of retaliation from the United States? There is no need for a framework of understanding. Vladimir Putin understands what this diplo-feculence means. The Trump administration will not punish him in any way for his aggressive attempts to interfere in the 2016 election. And we don’t need a framework for understanding to see what that’ll mean for future elections – here and elsewhere: It will happen again.”
So Trump got played again. It’s time to update those MAGA caps: Make America Grovel Anew.