I’ve commented on two appalling aspects of Trump’s Helsinki news conference — his placing equal blame on the United States for the problematic state of Russian–American relations and his refusal to side with his own intelligence appointees on the matter of Russia’s cyberespionage. Andy McCarthy finds it even more mind-boggling that Trump touted Putin’s “incredible offer” to have Robert Mueller’s team come to Russia to work with Russian investigators regarding the dozen officers in Russia’s military-intelligence service indicted by Mueller.
As a “condition” of so generously helping Mueller, Putin expects that our government would “reciprocate” by making available for questioning by Russian investigators “officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States, whom we believe have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia.”
This is classic Putin. The former KGB agent takes every Western misstep as a precedent, to be contorted and pushed to maximum advantage. . . .
Naturally, Putin expects us to help him investigate Bill Browder. . .Browder (who is British, though American born and educated) was the force behind both Magnitsky’s investigation and the sanctions legislation enacted in the U.S. and elsewhere in retaliation for Magnitsky’s murder — legislation that has cost Putin’s cronies lots of money, and the regime lots of embarrassment.
But that’s not all:
Two days after Helsinki, the Russian prosecutor general issued a list of Americans the Kremlin wants interrogated for “illegal activities.” The list includes Michael McFaul, the Obama administration’s ambassador to Russia, and at least one former intelligence official. Memo to DOJ: Expect Russia to issue indictments and international arrest warrants soon — as Putin said, it’s all about “reciprocity.”
Yes, it is outrageous for Russia to demand investigative access to our diplomats and officials. But what did we expect was going to happen? After the president seemed to gush at Putin’s “incredible offer” that we assist each other’s investigations, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was in no position to dismiss Russia’s proposal out of hand. Only when senior administration officials and Congress erupted in protest (with the Republican-controlled Senate quickly passing a 98–0 resolution in opposition) did the White House beat its retreat.
First, though, the president made sure to invite Putin to come to Washington for another meeting in the fall. What could go wrong?
The “incredible” deal that Putin proposed won’t materialize. But the fact that Trump characterized Putin’s offer that way, and crowed about it as if this vindicates his diplomacy, is shocking. Putin and his associates are probably engaged in a lively debate over who is the bigger fool, Donald Trump or Barack Obama.
Speaking of Obama, McCarthy reminds us that Trump is not the first president to be rolled by Putin. True. But each succeeding president has less excuse than his predecessor for being rolled.
Bush was mistaken to see Putin as other than a thuggish tyrant opposed to our interests However, the record when Bush made his initial assessment wasn’t conclusive.
Obama was foolish to blame America for poor relations with Putin and to think that the relations could be reset by the push of a button, plus major U.S. concessions. But then, Putin had annexed part of Georgia. Yet, he had not yet annexed Crimea, intruded into Eastern Ukraine, or committed atrocities in defense of the Assad regime.
Now that he has done all of this and more, there is no excuse for Trump’s performance in Helsinki. I don’t say Trump shouldn’t have met with Putin. But to espouse Russian talking points after the meeting in what McCarthy calls “a delusional quest for bromance with Vladimir Putin” was a disservice to our nation.