While you were sleeping, President Donald Trump sunk to a new low when it comes to his long-held skepticism that Russia actively interfered in the 2016 election to help him and hurt Hillary Clinton.
In Japan at the G20 — and sitting beside Vladimir Putin before the duo’s first meeting since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report — Trump was asked whether he would tell the Russian President not to meddle in future American elections.
“Don’t meddle in the election, please,” Trump said, smirking and wagging his finger at Putin.
Are. You. Kidding. Me.
The dismissiveness is dripping in Trump’s comment. You want me to say the little thing to the nice man? I’ll say it. You happy now? (Pats collective media on head).
He wants the media — and everyone watching — to know that he’s just going through the motions, that he doesn’t really believe that he needs to tell Putin not to involved Russia in future elections. He’s checking a box, in the most sarcastic way possible.
Which is consistent with how Trump has responded to questions of late as to whether he will raise Russia’s election interference with Putin at this G20 gathering. Over the weekend, NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Trump about broaching the subject of Russia’s role in the 2016 election with Putin. “I may if you’d like me to do it, I’ll do that,” Trump responded.
Here’s why all of this is so appalling (if you don’t already know): The United States intelligence community and the nearly two-year long Mueller investigation both affirmed this basic fact: Russia actively, aggressively and systematically sought to meddle in the 2016 election in order to help Trump and hurt Clinton. They took these actions because they believed Trump would be better for their interests than Clinton would be. They view the 2016 operations as a giant success and are extremely likely to pursue more attempts at interference in the 2020 election.
These are facts — affirmed by virtually every person in a position to know within the national security and intelligence communities.
The problem? Trump has never really believed them — and has made that fact abundantly clear to anyone listening.
Remember Trump’s statement regarding Russian election interference following his Helsinki summit with Putin in July 2018?
“I hold both countries responsible,” Trump said. “I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.”
In other words: This is a feature, not a glitch of how Trump views Russia, Putin and the interference in the 2016 election.
If you think Trump’s cavalier attitude about Russian meddling is just words, I’d like to point you to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s warning to staffers not to raise the issue of how America is dealing with future attempts to interfere in our elections because Trump couldn’t get beyond the idea that any talk of Russia meant people were saying he didn’t win fair and square.
Or to the report in The New York Times that Pentagon officials weren’t going into detail on operations against Russia with Trump for fear he might cancel the operations.
None of this is normal. And all of it has real geopolitical implications that will extend well beyond Trump’s time in office — whether that’s four or eight years.
To mock the idea of telling a foreign power who has already sought to meddle in our election not to do it again is the height of irresponsibility by Trump. It also amounts to basically an open invitation for Russia to do it again.