Oh, now. They don’t really mean that. They’re likely to get more midterm attack-ad soundbites out of Trump’s upcoming joint presser with Putin than from any other political event this year. Still, I suppose Democrats need to check this box, just to signal their disapproval of the summit loud and clear to their base. From Chuck Schumer’s office:
“These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win.
“President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections. Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy.”
Ol’ Maverick made it bipartisan:
John McCain just now: "If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward." pic.twitter.com/aEdIJGO0zt
— Joe Perticone (@JoePerticone) July 13, 2018
Both were echoed by Mark Warner, who warned that Trump and Putin shouldn’t be left alone in a room together in Helsinki. Yes, really: The top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee is insinuating that the president of the United States might be some sort of Russian asset who needs to be watched by his deputies. But even if Trump has his aides around him, Warner went on to say, the summit should be canceled unless he plans to make the charges in today’s indictment a top priority during talks. Odds of that happening: 0.0.
“There should be no one-on-one meeting between this President and Mr. Putin,” Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner says following the latest Mueller indictments. “There needs to be other Americans in the room” https://t.co/RCB7YFOSv1
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 13, 2018
One of the most amazing things about Trump’s many public statements about Russian activity in 2016 is that he doesn’t bother to even feign indignation about it. You might get a “not good” out of him in passing but I can’t recall one public moment of genuine annoyance by the Great Nationalist, the crusading defender of American sovereignty, at a foreign power for violating that sovereignty by screwing around in an election campaign. Warner picks up on it in the clip too, noting that it’s not Mueller who’s strained U.S.-Russian relations, as Trump claimed this morning, it’s the guy whom Mueller’s investigating for hacking Americans two years ago. This White House statement about today’s indictment is vintage:
NEW: White House responds to Russian hacking indictments. pic.twitter.com/rtj16iq7yR
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) July 13, 2018
There’s not even a pro forma reference to “bad Russia!” or being “troubled” by the allegations. It’s a pure “not our problem” statement, which is true criminally but assuredly not true politically. You’re the president, responsible for defending the country from foreign aggression. Any country, especially a traditional rival power, meddling in a campaign is the dictionary definition of your problem. Particularly when you ended up as the beneficiary, whether by design or otherwise.
This is why I say Democrats don’t want next week’s Putin summit canceled. At best — at best — POTUS is going to say in Helsinki that he raised the issue with Putin again, was assured that Russia is innocent, but in any case was further assured that there’ll be no Russian meddling going forward. More likely we’re going to hear stuff like “Thank God the United States has never interfered with elections” from him to minimize the gravity of what Moscow did. Anything to smooth relations between our country and theirs in pursuit of whatever it is that Trump thinks Russia is going to do for us. I think he has a legit psychological block about feeling angry at Russian meddling in 2016 because, whatever may be true or false in the allegations, the fact remains that he won. And any process that results in Trump winning by definition isn’t cause for anger. Whatever’s good for Trump is good, period. That’s what situational ethics means.
I’m curious to see if Putin tests that again by trying something this fall. It’d be a gamble. If Russia hacked someone again, this time on Trump’s watch, Trump really might get annoyed at the perception that he can’t — or won’t — protect the country from foreign interference. If they stick to hacking Democrats and doing what little they can to help Republicans, though, Trump’s situational ethical thinking might kick in. Can foreign interference that helps him and his party really be bad? Are Republicans supposed to throw away a gift-wrapped congressional advantage handed to them by Moscow for something as cuckish as a principle? C’mon. That’s how losers think.