Nobody Who Actually Could Do Something Moves To Do Anything Substantive In The Wake Of Trump’s “Clarification” Of The Putin Meeting Where He Praised The Russian Leader And Trashed His Own Country…Instead, Republican Rebukes From Just A Day Ago Turn Into Talk About “Moving Forward”
Let’s get a couple of things straight off the bat:
• Trump never actually used the word “misspoke” in describing what happened during his news conference with Putin. If you listen to his uncomfortable and excessively busy explanation, Trump comes very close to making it sound like he was misquoted. Because he said the wrong word:
“It should’ve been obvious. I thought it would be obvious. But I would like to clarify in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’. The sentence should’ve been: ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.”
What Trump actually said at the news conference was:
“My people came to me–[Intelligence Chief] 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 don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have…I have confidence in both parties.”
So while you can perhaps see where Trump might be given the benefit of the doubt on that one word, it doesn’t change the fact that throughout the news conference he continually praised Putin as at least if not more reputable than his own folks.
• Trump did not ever actually reverse that sentiment. Because immediately after saying:
“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.”
“Could be other people also. There’s a lot of people out there.”
That’s a total deflection which puts him right back to where he started!
Here’s video of both those things:
When we watch this clip we keep thinking: let’s put him in front of Putin again (not really!) and see what he says then, instead of many miles away in the safe confines of the White House.
It’s interesting the President came up with such an elaborate excuse to explain away his bizarre behavior around Putin, when it would’ve been the simplest thing in the world for Trump to have pretended he had a few disagreements with Putin at the news conference, as proof there was no possible way they could’ve ever possibly colluded. But he didn’t.
And we think the “real” Trump shone through a few hours earlier. Even as some of Trump’s most trusted enablers (Newt Gingrich, “The Mooch”, even the hosts of “Fox & Friends”) suggested the President change course at least a little, let’s not forget Trump himself preferred a different tack,Tweeting:
That echoes Trump’s buddy Sean Hannity, who gloated during his post-meeting interview with the President “the Left is in total freak-out mode!”
And Trump this morning seems entirely unchastened:
For those “flabbergasted” Trump supporters who ask “what exactly did you expect the President to do?”, take a look at the interview Chris Wallace did with Vladimir Putin immediately following the meeting for Fox News (which seemed to be the “official network” of the meeting). This has been a little lost in the shuffle, but it is so worth watching!
Ask some of those questions, perhaps.
As we said yesterday: this seems time for Republicans to prove they are Patriots and not toadies. But the political risk still somehow inexplicably seems weighted in Trump’s favor. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who both slammed Trump and offered him a lifeline the day before, now Tweets it’s all good again after those few words from Trump. And according to CNBC’s John Harwood, Republican Senator Marco Rubio now says what “matters is what we do moving forward”. Rubio may even benefit politically: a bipartisan bill he introduced along with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, would slap huge tariffs on Russia should they be found attacking U.S. elections ever again. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested “there’s a possibility” he’s ready to consider that.
But that bill was originally introduced in January!!! And until now it was going nowhere. It should’ve been passed long ago. And also, it’s all only about Russia; has nothing to do with censuring Trump or attempting to rein him in any way, shape, or form.
What about the bill that we mentioned yesterday that’s already passed out of Committee and just awaits McConnell bringing it to the floor for a vote? The one that makes it very hard for Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Even if it doesn’t pass with a veto-proof majority (which surely it should given all the strong words from Republicans just a day ago) wouldn’t you still want to send a strong message to Trump to stop messing around with Putin? Nary a peep from the Majority Leader.
So all the harsh rebukes of just a day ago turn into mush when Republican politicians assess whether they’re willing to bear the weight of a political fallout with the President, even when America’s foundation hangs in the balance.
And Trump remains (for now) untouchable. He wins the day, at least.
Now, that’s not to say stuff won’t happen in the background. Like for instance what about that “candidate for U.S. Congress” mentioned in last week’s Justice Department indictment of the Russian Military hackers? Who requested stolen information from the Russians? Assuming that candidate actually won their seat, wouldn’t you think it’d be important for that name to get out before this fall’s elections, when the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election? Of course if it does, Trump will just point to it as more evidence of a “deep state” conspiracy against him.
Still, maybe the best we can hope for is a quieter, behind-the-scenes effort to ease the path for Mueller just a little bit. Perhaps by backing off endless requests for documents just to slow the investigation down, and then complaining the investigation is going too slowly. (That, actually, is never going to happen). But some Senator or even someone from the intelligence community who’s been savaged, might be a little more eager now to pave the way for the release of information or additional indictments to at least prove unequivocally they’re right about Russia and Trump is wrong, and damn the shitstorm that will no doubt blow in from the President’s counter-attack.
Or maybe it’s still too soon to expect even that.
Which leaves only one answer:
Quick Update To Our Story Yesterday About How The President’s So Hung Up On “Collusion” Even Though Nobody’s Alleging It At This Point…
Trump made some last-minute edits to the statement we discussed above “clarifying” the remarks he made during his news conference with Putin, which the Washington Post’s Philip Bump fascinatingly details here. Those edits included scribbling in the words “THERE WAS NO COLUSION” (sic) with a Sharpie. That’s something Trump never forgets…
In fact, during his brief “clarification” session, he brings up “collusion” three times, with lots of detailed “proofs” of why there was none, including Trump’s favorite of all time: “a lot of people have come out strongly on that…”
And as we mentioned yesterday, if you go back and watch the joint news conference you realize that if you force yourself to ignore all the real incendiary stuff, “collusion” is the one common theme to which Trump keeps returning. Again and again. Specifically, how there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Except no one’s accusing anyone of that right now. All the charges brought so far from the Special Counsel’s investigation have to do with evidence Russian Military hacked and otherwise attempted to influence the election. Defendants: Russians all:
Yet Trump can’t seem to get there. He can’t seem to separate what Russia did, with what Trump and his campaign may have done. The most obvious possible explanation for this is there is no difference. But one would think Trump would still want to argue these things are separate, not that it doesn’t matter as long as he’s not involved.