Treason Summit Fallout

Ken AshfordElection 2016, L'Affaire Russe, Russia, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It’s been compared to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. These comparisons, to me, aren’t apt.  For one thing, people died.  More importantly, those tragedies weren’t self-inflicted. But the gravity of what Trump did has even surpassed his “both sides” comment of Charlottesville.

Virtually every politician and pundit has condemned the disastrous press conference.  “Treason” and “traitor” are on many lips, while some weak Republicans simply criticized Trump for a “missed opportunity”

You can count the number of people actually supporting Trump.

Sean Hannity, of course
Tucker Carlson, of course
Paul Rand (more on that below)
Jeanine Pirro (“What was he supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin? Putin said, “I didn’t meddle in your election,” so the president should say hang on, let me execute this guy”)

Newsbusters is on Team Trump, and they made this compilation showing liberal media “hysteria” over what happened, but if you notice, it is not just liberal media. It is academics and former CIA directors and people of all stripes

Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts of Trump’s favorite morning show, Fox & Friends, addressed the president directly this morning, telling him he got it wrong when he backed Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the 2016 election over the evidence-based conclusions of his own intelligence services. Senior Republicans have been among those saying Trump got it badly wrong at the summit in Helsinki. Addressing Trump directly, Kilmeade said: “When Newt Gingrich, when Gen. Jack Keane, when Matt Schlapp say the president fell short and made our intelligence apparatus look bad, I think it’s time to pay attention and it’s easily correctable from the president’s perspective. Nobody’s perfect, especially [after] 10 intensive days of summits, private meetings, and everything on his plate. But that moment is the one that’s going to stand out unless he comes out and corrects it.”

I was very curious as to how the White House would try to spin its way out of it today.  Right now — mid-morning after — it doesn’t look like they are going to try.

As for himself, Trump offered this tweet:

Yeah, that’s the excuse Rand Paul offered.  Maybe it’s time to do a little historical perspective:

MUELLER: 14 months (so far)
PLAME LEAK: 3 years
IRAN-CONTRA: 6 1/2 years
WATERGATE: 4 years

Here’s a helpful chart:

Reports are that Trump went against his advisers:

Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would end differently — without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said.

“Everyone around Trump” was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. Before Monday’s meeting, the second person said, advisers covered matters from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump “made a game-time decision” to handle the summit his way.

“I think that the United States has been foolish,” Trump said at one point, referring to tensions with Russia. “I think we’ve all been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office.”

A senior White House official disputed the idea that the president acted unilaterally, and said he had numerous sessions with senior administration officials preparing for the summit in addition to briefing materials.

I tend to believe the administration officials who said Trump ignored them.

The reports are that the staff saw this trainwreck coming:

Signs that things might not go according to plan were evident during the two days Trump spent holed up at his luxury seaside golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.

The president spent much of the weekend “growling,” in the words of one White House official, over the Justice Department’s indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for interfering in the 2016 election. He fretted that the release of the indictments just before the meeting could hurt him politically, the official said.

Growling. Yes, I can see that. And if was growling THEN, what will he do now?

Here’s more inside baseball:

The prevailing theory among Trump aides and alumni is pretty simple. “He can’t separate meddling from colluding,” said one source close to Trump. “He can’t publicly express any nuanced view because he thinks it concedes maybe there’s something he did wrong.”

  • Trump has, at times, privately conceded that Russia probably hacked. But the minute the word “election” comes up in conversation, his brain shifts into an attack mode that throws U.S. intelligence out the window and delights Putin.
  • The source added: “His P.R. and legal strategy right now is to impugn the FBI in order to inoculate himself from the Mueller investigation writ large.”

What we’re hearing:

  • A former senior White House official, who worked closely with Trump, immediately texted us: “Need a shower.”
  • One of Trump’s own former National Security Council officials texted: “Dude. This is a total [effing] disgrace. The President has lost his mind.”
  • CBS “Face the Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan, who was in the audience, told AP she was messaging some U.S. officials during the speech who said they were turning off the television.

The most forgiving spin of what happened yesterday would acknowledge that Trump’s words are the product of an ego so fragile that he simply can’t handle any insinuation that his electoral triumph is tainted in any way Russian actions — so he has defend his victory at every opportunity, no matter how inappropriate the setting. In other words, Trump’s press conference wasn’t about advancing America’s interests, it was about defending Trump’s accomplishments.

But Americans don’t care about Trump’s accomplishments as much as they do about, well, America.  And this makes this presidency a “Put Trump First” presidency.  That’s the BEST spin you can put on this: it’s ego. But that hardly makes it better.

Even conservative Max Boot says we can’t use that as a defense now:

We are past the point when Trump’s conduct — which leaves future elections wide open to Russian manipulation — can be ascribed to his unwillingness to do anything that will tarnish his glorious victory. It is true but insufficient to point out that that Trump’s unwillingness to acknowledge the Russian attack on America is putting his own interests above the country’s.

Even if Trump were thinking only in terms of his own political survival — his usual mode — he would be tougher on Putin, because he must realize that kowtowing to the Russian only strengthens suspicions of collusion. But Trump just cannot bring himself to do it. Is that because he hopes for more aid from Putin in the future — or because he is afraid of what Putin can reveal about him? Either way, he gives every impression of betraying his oath of office.

It’s also embarrassing domestically and internationally.  Look at the headline from a Finnish newspaper:

But IS it just ego?  Consider that it also might be something else. Maybe there really is a pee tape. Or other compromat. I tend to believe Russia has the goods on Trump because of financial dealings.

There are talks of impeachment (there were before), more serious talks of censure, calls for three Senate Republicans to leave the GOP caucus thus giving Dems control of the Senate, calls for high-ranking White House people or agencies to resign in protest.  I don’t think any of those things will happen, because despite the outrage, all Republicans seem to be as spineless about Trump as Trump is about Putin.

Today, there will be a protest outside the White House, which seems to be in bunker mentality mode.  But I don’t know. Trump is in fight mode this morning obviously:

It’s unclear how Trump expects the media to report favorably or otherwise about his meeting with Putin, given that no details about what was discussed have been released, and nobody besides the two leaders and translators was present for it.

We’ll see as the day develops, but if Charlottesville didn’t turn the tide, I doubt yesterday is a “tipping point” either. I mean, the response to GOP politicians who agree that Russia is trying to undermine democracy is a loud “WELL WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”

UPDATE — It looks like White House is trying to tell us we didn’t hear what we heard.

UPDATE #2 — Ah! Here we go. Trump to clean up his own mess in a carefully prepared speech that he will NOT divert from (I’m sure) and he will NOT take questions (I’m sure)

Nope. It looks like it’s one of those bunch-of-white-men-around-the-table things….

This will be good.

UPDATE 2:30 pm — I don’t know what’s happening? Is it still on?

Oh, ok.

He has said that before and then went on to completely negate what he said. In fact, that is what he did yesterday.

Doesn’t pass the laugh test. It doesn’t explain the defense of his performance this morning on Twitter, or all the other opportunities he had during that press conference to say it was Russia. It  doesn’t clarify attacks on FBI or DOJ, or comments like: “Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today” “All I can do is ask the question” “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the US has been foolish”

Whoops. He WAS wobbly with reporters!

So he took it back and then equivocated.

Aaaand welcome back, spineless Republicans: