South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds said some very strange things on Tuesday to explain provable falsehoods against America voiced by President Trump.
As we all know by now, the president at a joint press conference this weekend with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, publicly trashed the continuing, shared conclusion of all U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia digitally attacked the 2016 presidential election process to support Trump over rival Hillary Clinton.
Then Mr. Trump sided with Putin against America.
The president’s stunning — some estimable people, like former CIA Director John Brennan, say “treasonous” — statements at the weekend press conference began after this pointed question put to him by an Associated Press reporter:
“Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”
President Trump responded with an irrelevant non sequitur as a distraction before discrediting his own intelligence experts:
“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
“With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.
“My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.”
‘Confidence in both parties’
Ignoring his purposely distracting reference to the unrelated email server non-issue from the 2016 campaign, what he’s saying is he knows that American intelligence agencies have concluded Russia attacked our 2016 election but that he also accepts the authenticity of Putin’s denial and, in any event, doesn’t personally “see any reason why” Russia would meddle in an American election in the first place.
For him to then say he has “confidence in both parties,” is another distraction from the reality: he clearly favors the Russian party. You can’t have confidence in two scenarios, publicly express preference for the most flagrantly un-American one, and believe the shell game is defensible in your own country.
But he did.
On Monday, back in the U.S., the president tried, with embarrassing disingenuity and impossibility, to walk back his Helsinki debacle, which had unsurprisingly unleashed a torrent of criticism at home. He issued what he and his supporters referred to as a “clarification.” It was only a clarification if you are blind, deaf and dumb and had no idea what he said before to compare it with.
It was a lie, in fact. An egregiously bald-faced one.
‘No colusion’ (sic)
Speaking Tuesday from a prepared script at the White House, in which he had crossed out a reference to bringing to justice the 12 indicted Russians alleged to have conspired against the 2016 election, and adding with a sharpie in black “No Colusion” — with collusion misspelled — he said:
“I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t. The sentence should have been, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.”
Except it doesn’t. That’s not what he said in Helsinki, and it’s opposite from everything else he said there that fully supports what he actually said.
This is shameless and despicable lying to the American people, which continues to get oxygen if people that matter in our system of government don’t call it what it is and hold the liars accountable no matter what their station.
‘Putin out-Trumped by Trump’?
Which brings us to Sen. Rounds, chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee. When the senator was asked by Washington Post reporter Erica Werner why he thought the president refused to acknowledge Russian election interference of any kind at the press conference, Slate reports in an article titled, “Republican Senator Says Trump Lied About Russian Meddling During Summit as a Bizarro Form of Statecraft,” he responded oddly:
“Everything I’ve seen and all the facts are very clear: Russia did meddle in our election. That was very clear. So I think what actually happened, I think Mr. Putin just got out-Trumped by Trump. If Mr. Putin thinks he can tell a whopper, he’s not gonna be outdone by this president. And so if Mr. Putin is going to look at him and try to straight-faced tell him that they didn’t meddle, our president can look right back at him and tell just as big a whopper back to Putin as Putin told him.”
In other words, Trump was trying to out-lie Putin in front of the world. Right.
The Slate reporter wrote, “It’s unclear whether Sen. Rounds was joking. Or was having a stroke during the interview.”
I know you are, but what am I
In another article on Sen. Rounds Helsinki interpretation, Huffpost quoted the senator, in an article titled “GOP Senator Offers The Craziest Theory For Why Trump Didn’t Stand Up To Putin: The president aired doubts about Russian meddling in order to stick it to Vladimir Putin, Sen. Mike Rounds hypothesized,” as saying this:
“The president just looked right back at [Putin] and with the same straight face … basically sent a message: ‘If you can sit here and tell me that with a straight face and that’s what it takes it to move forward in other negotiations, I most certainly can match you on this, and in fact I can stand here and say, ‘Of course you didn’t do it,’ even though we all know that [you did].’”
For good measure, he added this:
“The reality is, ‘I know you did it, you know you did it, and you know that I know that you did it.’ So to me, Mr. Putin tried to tell the whopper with a straight face and President Trump basically laid out, ‘You wanna play that game? Fine. I can do the same thing because we all know you did.’”
No wonder they call Washington, D.C., a swamp.
What about the lying part?
Fortunately, our state’s other federal legislators, Republicans Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristy Noem, haven’t said anything as remotely nonsensical about the president’s disturbing turn toward Russia at Helsinki. In fact, they have hardly said anything at all, certainly nothing about the lying part later.
The Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Argus Leader, the state’s largest metro daily, reported Monday:
“In social media posts and statements, Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem affirmed Russia’s involvement in tampering with the 2016 election but fell short of faulting Trump for accepting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial that Moscow interfered.”
The Argus Leader said the legislators didn’t immediately respond to its questions about “Trump’s comments in Helsinki and possible consequences.”
‘Do you stand with America’
The newspaper reported a statement by South Dakota Democratic Party executive director Sam Parkinson that urged the lawmakers “to hold the president accountable for his comments.” Parkinson said:
“Republicans in Congress, including Noem, Rounds and Thune, must decide: Do they stand with President Trump and Vladimir Putin, or with the American People?”
Sen. Thune is a member of the GOP elite, who has been mentioned as a potential presidential or vice presidential candidate. Noem is running for governor of our state. Rounds is and up and comer.
Are these the kind of people we want to lead us in America? People who are apparently too terrified to talk truth to power? People who value their re-elections over their own integrity and the people’s trust? Who make no sense?
Meanwhile, Rome is still burning.
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