There’s no defending Trump anymore

Whether President Trump is a Manchurian candidate—cultivated for leadership here by an enemy nation to damage our country—or simply feckless is almost irrelevant at this point. It would be satisfying to know, but immaterial, given the president’s behavior. Trump’s actions, even if motivated by ill-founded concepts or desperate self-preservation rather than allegiance to a hostile foreign power, are deeply injurious to the welfare of the United States.

Rather than confronting Vladimir Putin for interfering in the 2016 election, Trump gave the Russian leader’s professions of innocence the same weight as the unanimous conclusion of American intelligence agencies: “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” The charge of Russian malfeasance had been reiterated by Dan Coats the previous day, and was repeated again by the director of national intelligence after the alarming press conference featuring Trump and Putin: “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.” Trump received that information in advance of the Putin meeting not only from Coats, but also from the Justice Department, which briefed him on the Mueller indictments before their issuance.