Well, the reviews are in on Donald Trump’s rather astonishing performance in Helsinki and they are – how should we put this? – God awful.
To be clear, no one (including, by the way, Donald Trump) went into this expecting much. And Trump’s tweets hours ahead of the summit gave the world a preview of what to expect in terms of just how willing he would be to sell out the country by continuing to push the “witch hunt” narrative despite the fact that his own Justice Department indicted 12 Russian operatives for election interference just 72 hours prior.
Trump’s weekend tweets and those that emanated from his Twitter account on Monday, found the President railing against FBI conspiracies, shrieking about Hillary Clinton, decrying “fake news” and, in one particularly egregious post, reiterating the idea that the press is “the enemy of the American people.”
Those tweets came after Trump’s extremely disconcerting behavior at the NATO summit in Brussels (where the President alluded to a possible U.S. exit from the alliance) and apparently deliberate attempt to undermine Theresa May’s government by endorsing Boris Johnson for Prime Minister. In an interview with CBS, clips from which aired over the weekend, Trump described the European Union as a “foe” of America.
In short, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that this isn’t a intentional (and perpetual) effort on the part of a sitting U.S. President to undermine America’s allies.
Still, even with that setup, it would have been difficult for anyone to predict just how poorly Trump would fare in the Putin summit. It was, again, an unmitigated disaster. You can watch the highlights here, but suffice to say Donald Trump quite literally endorsed Vladimir Putin’s position on election meddling over that of the U.S. intelligence community on the way to excoriating Democrats, talking about the DNC and “servers” and lambasting Peter Strzok. He even suggested – again – that the U.S. would be willing to work with Russia on getting to the bottom of what happened in the 2016 election, an effort which would apparently involve handing over U.S. intelligence to the Kremlin.
U.S. lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are aghast.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said the following, in a statement:
This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.
Lindsey Graham (R-SC), tweeted this:
It is imperative that Congress hold hearings on the extent and scope of any cooperation with Russia in Syria regarding Iran’s presence.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 16, 2018
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-LA) was even more direct:
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
“For the president to cast doubt is not unreasonable”, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) said, but that was all he could muster in support. He went on to say this:
Having said that, Putin is an evil man.
Pete King (R-NY) couldn’t take it, especially the bit where Putin suggested that Robert Mueller should work with the Kremlin:
Strongly disagree with Trump’s statement. [I’m] disappointed, not flabbergasted. [Russia working with Mueller] would be like bringing ISIS into a joint terrorism task force.
For their part, Trump’s cheerleaders at Fox News called the President’s performance “disgusting”:
Meghan McCain has had it:
I don’t have anything quippy to tweet. I’m horrified – and have never been more proud of the fact that Putin hates my father so much he personally sanctioned him on Russia’s enemies list.
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 16, 2018
John McCain said this:
Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.
President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.
It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.
No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.
Matt Drudge is piling on:
— Walter White (@heisenbergrpt) July 16, 2018
And John Brennan thinks it was downright treason:
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Even the dictionary is mad:
Patriot: A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
Traitor: A person who commits treason by betraying his or her country.https://t.co/Keq4fhTlRB
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) July 16, 2018
But the press conference is getting rave reviews from the only person who matters to Donald Trump – Donald Trump:
Thank you Helsinki, Finland! pic.twitter.com/rh4NUjPSwU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018