NBC’s Katy Tur interviewed GOP Rep. Francis Rooney today about how tough (or not) President Trump would be toward Russia. When Rep. Rooney brought up former President Obama’s 2012 statement, to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, that he would have “more flexibility” after his re-election, Tur said she didn’t know the incident to which Rooney was referring.
“I think he’ll treat Russia more firmly than Obama,” Rep. Rooney said early in the exchange. Asked by Tur why he had that confidence, Rooney replied, “He’s got a lot of conservative people in the government.” Rooney went on to say that keeping America strong and safe meant, “dealing with Russia.”
Tur challenged the congressman saying, “He also has a number of people that were…in his administration until last week who were friendly with Russia. General Mike Flynn being one of them.” Glancing down at her notes, Tur continued, “His former campaign CEO was Paul Manafort who’s got ties to Russia. His Secretary of State was given the Medal of Friendship by Russia.” “You say there’s a lot of conservatives who are going to push back on Russia but I see a lot of folks within Donald Trump’s administration who have a friendlier view of Russia than maybe past administrations did,” Tur said.
“Well, I think it was Obama that leaned over to Putin and said ‘I’ll have a little more flexibility to give you what you want after the reelection,'” Rep. Rooney responded.
Tur replied, “I’m sorry I don’t know what you’re referring to congressman.”
“Remember when he leaned over at a panel discussion or a meeting and he said ‘I’ll have more flexibility after the election.’ No one every really pushed the President on what he meant by that but I can only assume, for a thug like Putin, that it would embolden him,” Rooney said.
Rooney is referring to a widely reported incident in March 2012 when President Obama was caught on a hot mic speaking with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Obama said, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.” Medvedev replied, “I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir.”
The fact that Rep. Rooney mistakenly put Putin in the room rather than Medvedev doesn’t really help explain Tur’s failure to recognize this incident. Anyone who was paying attention to the news in 2012 would have heard about Obama’s widely reported “flexibility” remark.
The issue which Obama apparently wanted flexibility on was a missile defense system in eastern Europe. Obama had previously been criticized in 2009 for cancelling a missile defense system the Bush administration had planned to install in Poland. In 2012, when Obama made the comments caught on the hot mic, there was some concern he was abandoning any future missile defense in eastern Europe. But in 2016, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a missile defense system was set up in Romania.
Here’s the exchange between Tur and Rep. Rooney. This clip courtesy of Mediaite:
Finally, this Associated Press clip shows the hot mic exchange between Obama and Medvedev: