Our reading for this Sunday afternoon is this tweet.
I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
This confirmed something I suspected when I was reading through the transcript of Mnuchin and McMaster answering questions about the meeting yesterday evening.
It is not just that I don’t think they wanted to answer a question to which they had no good answer (i.e., yes, Trump said he believed the denial). It’s that these guys have seen this movie as often as we have. They don’t want to deny it yesterday only to see Trump admit it today and insist it was awesome.
That’s exactly what Trump did this morning.
I see no other reasonable interpretation of that tweet. Trump looked him in the eye and asked Putin for the truth. Putin said: I’m innocent. And that was the end of it. When Trump says suggestively “I’ve already given my opinion …” Good lord, he’s right! He’s been giving us his opinion for longer than six months. It’s fake news! A “made up” story Democrats use an excuse to explain why they lost an election they should have won.
It’s fair to say that there’s no position Trump has held to more firmly over the last six months than this one. Even last week when Trump in the view of many appeared to concede Russian involvement he actually didn’t. “Well, I think it was Russia, and I think it could have been other people in other countries. Could have been a lot of people interfered … Nobody really knows for sure. I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction. How everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what — that led to one big mess. They were wrong.” Even when pressed in the narrowest terms, Trump’s concedes that it may have been Russia and then follows up with a flurry of arguments about how we really have no idea and it probably wasn’t. Name-checking Iraqi WMD’s, perhaps the greatest malicious intelligence failure in US history, leaves no other explanation.
This statement is crystal clear: I asked him, he said he didn’t do it, which is what I’ve said all along. This was as predictable as night follows day, which is certainly why his top advisors, who sought to portray a now-exploded version of events in which Trump fought with Putin over the question, wisely avoided saying something that Trump would deny the next day.