I said last week that we were about to see history repeat itself, with Trump replaying his performance at the G7 Summit and the Kim Jong-Un meeting, this time at the NATO Summit and his meeting with Putin. It turns out I was being an optimist. He was even worse, far worse, than even I imagined he would be. That press conference with Putin was nothing more than a public servicing of Putin and a wholesale sellout of the United States.
When he was pressured to ask Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 election, and in future elections, Trump last did the “throw up my hands, what can I do if he says no” approach. Then he followed it up by swallowing Putin’s denials in one big gulp:
“My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me, 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 this came right as Putin was asked whether he preferred to see Trump elected rather than Clinton in that election and he quickly admitted that he did, because Trump talked about normalizing relations between the two countries. He left the obvious unsaid: Because Trump is incredibly easy to manipulate because of his insatiable ego and need for praise. But let’s be clear about what is happening here: Trump is throwing our entire intelligence community under the bus and accepting the denials of the head of the KGB. Could you possibly imagine any other president of either party doing that? Welcome to Trumpworld, where the unthinkable becomes reality — or rather, lack of reality but declared true anyway.
He also threw his own hand-picked DNI under the bus, by name. Coats responded very publicly, putting out this statement:
The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. 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.
Virtually everything Trump says or does can be explained not as a matter of policy or ideology but as a pure question of psychology. Nearly every statement or action has one goal, which is to keep his giant and fragile ego inflated. And his behavior with Putin is classic bullying behavior. He pushes around everyone he can, but becomes an invertebrate in the presence of a bigger bully. And since Putin can get away with things Trump can’t, like killing journalists and political opponents, he cowers before a man with that kind of raw power.