Makes sense. America won’t be truly great again until we [checks notes] start handing over American citizens to Putin.
McFaul, formerly Obama’s ambassador to Russia, got wind that his name came up in Trump’s chat with Putin in Helsinki and appealed to the press yesterday to confront Sanders about it.
Hey WH press Corps, can you confirm tomorrow with @PressSec that Putin discussed me personally in his one on one with Trump? Did he suggest that I was part of some alleged money laundering scheme? And did Trump push back on this completely invented , whacko idea?
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 18, 2018
NYT reporter Maggie Haberman took the baton at today’s briefing and put that question to her. Did Putin tell Trump that he wants to “question” McFaul and others? Is Trump … actually considering this? No promises were made, Sanders assured her — but yes, he’ll be discussing it with his natsec team.
Sarah Sanders says that "there was conversation" between Putin and Trump about Russian authorities questioning Bill Browder and Michael McFaul; Sanders said there wasn't a commitment made, but that Trump would "work with his team." (via CBS) pic.twitter.com/eXnUApGuZX
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 18, 2018
There is a correct answer to the question of whether the U.S. might deliver its own citizens to Russian fascists to answer for “crimes” there, and conveniently it was delivered today by one of Trump’s own appointees. Which sounds like an absurd contradiction, and it is — but it’s true to form. There are essentially two U.S. administrations overseeing Russia policy, the Russophilic one led by Trump for which Sanders speaks and the Russophobic one comprised of everyone else, including the State Department, for which Heather Nauert speaks.
After WH spox Sarah Sanders fails to reject Russian request to question former US Amb to Russia Michael McFaul, State spox Heather Nauert calls the Russian request "absolutely absurd" and "We do not stand by those assertions" the Russian government makes.
— Jonathan Landay (@JonathanLanday) July 18, 2018
Outrageous, says Nauert! He’ll talk to his team about it, says Sanders. Two administrations.
Anyway, it won’t happen. Trump the super-patriot might not understand why handing over Americans to be Russian political prisoners is offensive but everyone around him does. Putin knows that too, and so we’re left to wonder: Why would he have even raised the topic with Trump? One theory is that he was trying to game the talks by starting out with a ridiculous demand that somehow wasn’t too ridiculous for POTUS:
Again, this was *almost certainly* a disingenuous dealbreaker “offer” that Trump surprised them by failing to immediately recognize as an outrageous non-starter. https://t.co/Uh7pyNST4m
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) July 18, 2018
Eh, I don’t buy it. To believe that you’d need to believe that Putin hasn’t sized Trump up very well, that he’d float an idea to which Trump’s reply might genuinely surprise him. I think this theory’s better:
Make no mistake: the reason Putin feels emboldened to target @McFaul, a former US ambassador, is because he is an Obama administration appointee and a Clinton supporter. Putin clearly feels he has a sympathetic ear in @realDonaldTrump. This is a perversion of US politics.
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) July 18, 2018
That makes more sense. Putin understands that Trump loathes Obama and considers it a virtue to do the opposite whenever possible of whatever Obama did in a similar situation. Contra Sanchez, I think he floated McFaul’s name because he knew that it would appeal to Trump intuitively to take Russia’s side against members of Obama’s administration. The rest of the Trump administration would recoil at the idea of surrendering Americans to Russia for “questioning,” but not POTUS — at least not if those Americans were political enemies from O’s tenure. McKay Coppins posed this question earlier today:
If Trump & co. just pivoted to "Aren't you glad Russia helped us defeat Hillary Clinton?" would there be any serious blowback from his base?
— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) July 18, 2018
He got a few replies back affirming that, yes, it was virtuous for Russia to have interfered in 2016 insofar as it enabled Republican victory. America can only be great with the right in charge, therefore anything that helps put the right in charge is by definition patriotic. Putin probably gambled on Trump feeling the same way vis-a-vis McFaul. If he worked for Obama then how can it be unpatriotic to hand him over? Trump’s apparently having a sufficiently difficult time noodling that question that he needs to huddle with Pompeo and Bolton before responding. I figure there’s a 50/50 chance that Putin also offered to hand over Obama’s “real” birth certificate to him if Trump would hand over Obama himself. Maybe the natsec team can talk that one through too.
Here’s McFaul’s latest, by the way:
I hope the White House corrects the record and denounces in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin. Not doing so creates moral equivalency between a legitimacy US indictment of Russian intelligence officers and a crazy, completely fabricated story invented by Putin https://t.co/K1ZvrNwTu3
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 18, 2018
Exit question: How many new Trump hotels and golf courses in Russia could we get in return for McFaul, Eric Holder, and an Obama cabinet member to be named later?