Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Putin, Russians can declare: Mission Accomplished

If Vladimir Putin were so inclined, I might expect to see the Russian president unfurl a banner in Red Square that reads, in Russian of course, “Mission Accomplished.”

The Russians meddled in our 2016 election. They sought to influence its outcome. They attacked our electoral process. They declared a form of war against our democratic process.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded as much. I believe them. The winner of the 2016 presidential election, Donald John Trump, has yet to draw that conclusion.

Oh, no. Instead, he has disparaged our intelligence apparatus. He has sought to deflect criticism of the Russians through equivocation, saying that “it could be anybody” who meddled in our election.

Now, do I believe the Russians actually swung the election in Trump’s favor? Do I believe their meddling, by itself, resulted in a Trump victory? No. I believe the president defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton legally. I also believe Clinton made too many fatal mistakes down the stretch to salvage a campaign that she should have socked away long before Election Day.

But you see, the Russians have succeeded famously. They have thrown the U.S. political discussion into near hysteria. Accordingly, they have accomplished one of their primary missions, which is to cast doubt on our electoral process.

We’ve got congressional committees examining the interference. The FBI is examining it, too. The president fired former FBI Director James Comey over the “Russia thing,” and the Justice Department has appointed a first-rate special counsel, Robert Mueller, to conduct an independent probe of that Russia matter.

There might be indictments forthcoming. The president himself might find himself in a world of political hurt. Trump has been so consumed by this investigation that he cannot take the time he needs to fill critical spots within the nation’s executive government branch.

I cannot predict how all these investigations will conclude. I feel fairly confident in suggesting that no matter the outcome, that Vladimir Putin has succeeded wildly in undermining the electoral process of the world’s remaining superpower.

Trump-Putin ‘bromance’ renews

What in the world gives with Donald Trump?

He took the floor today at the White House for a brief press encounter with the president of Finland. He took questions from reporters gathered in front of the two leaders.

One of them asked, “Does Russia pose a national security threat” to the United States.

The president’s response boggles the mind.

He said “a lot of nations” pose threats to our security. Not Russia, which was the precise subject of the reporter’s question.

“A lot of nations … “

This kind of obfuscation and thinly veiled verbal trickery is maddening in the extreme. Although it shouldn’t surprise any of us these days.

The president has continually refused to:

* Criticize the Russians for taking the Crimea back from Ukraine.

* Concur with intelligence agencies that Russia acted alone in trying to influence the 2016 outcome.

* Agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a killer.

He keeps soft-shoeing around the obvious assertions by almost everyone else in Washington that Putin is a real bad dude and that he governs a country that poses a serious threat to this nation’s security.

He keeps yammering about the need to craft better bilateral relations.

It’s seemingly obvious, though, that the Russians do threaten us. It’s also obvious that they launched an attack on our electoral process.

When is the president of the United States going to own up what has become patently obvious to the nation he was elected to lead?

Sarcasm? Is that why POTUS ‘thanked’ Putin?

It’s becoming a throw-away line, an automatic “out” for every ridiculous statement that flies out of Donald John Trump Sr.’s mouth.

The president received a direct question the other day. A reporter asked the vacationing president what he thought of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to expel 755 U.S. diplomats. Trump’s response was to “thank” Putin for reducing the U.S. diplomatic service’s payroll.

So, with that idiotic response, the president of the United States effectively told those diplomats — and their Russian allies in the U.S. mission — that they don’t matter. He didn’t thank them publicly for their service. He didn’t say a negative word about Putin’s response to our government’s decision to impose sanctions on the Russian government over its meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Oh, no. He didn’t go there.

Did he mean what he said? White House flacks said he was being “sarcastic.” Really?

Well, where is the disclaimer from the president? Why didn’t he reveal his sarcasm in the moment? Why did he in effect send the message to our Russia mission staff that they don’t matter, that their work and their years of service to the nation is of no value?

I do not believe there was a hint of sarcasm in what Donald Trump said. I believe instead that he engaged his mouth without first thinking of the consequences that his words carry.

This is yet another disgraceful demonstration of a president who “tells it like it is.”

Trump ‘thanks’ Putin for kicking out diplomats? Wow!

Donald John Trump Sr. sat with reporters today while vacationing in New Jersey and took a question about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A reporter asked the president to respond to Putin’s decision to expel 755 U.S. diplomats from Russia in retaliation to the sanctions bill approved by Congress and signed by Trump.

“I want to thank” the Russian president for kicking the Americans out, Trump responded, adding that he had planned to cut the U.S. diplomatic payroll and this gives him a chance to make good on that plan.

No, he didn’t say he was joking. There was no apparent tongue in cheek. The president “thanked” the Russian strongman for punishing the United States.

Oh, and the diplomats who are being given the boot? The president doesn’t have their back, either.

How many more ways does Donald Trump need to show that he has no business occupying the most noble office in the land?

Open wide, Mr. President, and swallow this bill

Congress has just force-fed Donald J. Trump a heaping helping of his least-favorite veggie, chased down with a bitter concoction of political reality.

The president signed a bill that imposes tough new sanctions on Russia. He doesn’t like the bill. He signed it anyway, then took a series of shots at Congress for — as the president implied — undermining executive authority to conduct foreign policy.

Poor guy. What lawmakers have done is hold him more accountable for the way he deals with Russia, the nation that meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to remain virtually silent on the meddling matter. He has said utterly nothing in public about the harsh retaliation that Vladimir Putin recently took in response to the sanctions bill; the Russian president ordered the expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomats and foreign service staffers. Trump’s reaction? Silence, nothing.

So now we have imposed more sanctions on Russia. The president needs congressional authority to lighten them, which gets under Trump’s paper-thin skin.

He lashed out at Congress for its inability to approve a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and said he, alone, is able to negotiate better deals with foreign powers than those nincompoops on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the probe into Russia’s meddling continues. The president needs to let that investigation proceed full throttle. If it produces nothing, then Donald Trump can crow himself hoarse. If it comes up with something, um, incriminating, then he has to deal with whatever consequences fall into his lap.

If the president isn’t going to speak out on behalf of our electoral system, then it behooves Congress to articulate a nation’s outrage. That is what lawmakers have done with this sanctions bill — and they have forced it down the president’s throat. Good for them!

Is the Trump-Putin bromance over … finally?

Donald John Trump Sr. and Vladimir Putin once were thought to be made for each other.

One of them is a tough guy; the other seems enamored of tough guys. Putin is the former; Trump would be the latter.

Now, though, their relationship has taken a turn for the worst. Congress enacted a tough new sanctions protocol against Russia — as well as against North Korea — that prohibits the president from scrapping them without congressional approval.

Trump says he’ll sign the sanctions bill.

Putin responded this weekend by ordering the removal of 755 American diplomats from Russia, dramatically reducing the U.S. presence in that country. The Russian president seems to think his response is equivalent to the U.S. expelling of 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Russians’ meddling in our 2016 presidential election.

It’s not at all proportional.

The question remains: Will the U.S. president stand firm or will he roll over?

Trump has been maddeningly reluctant to call the Russians out for their interference in our election. He keeps equivocating by suggesting that “it could be anyone” other than the Russians. He dismisses U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessment that the Russians acted alone.

Will see how this plays out. My hope is that Trump awakens from his infatuation with Putin and concludes that the Russians aren’t our friends — and that the two leaders have wildly differing views on their personal relationship.

Undisclosed meeting? What are we supposed to think?

Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin had another meeting recently that no one knew about … until now.

Hmmm. And the president continues to keep secrets that need not be kept? Is that what’s going on here?

The two presidents met for more than two hours in Hamburg, Germany the other day. Trump “pressed” the Russian president on whether his government interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Putin reportedly denied any such involvement. Of course he would deny it.

Then the men shook hands and went their separate ways. Then Trump decided to meet privately with Putin for more than an hour. The only other person in the room was Putin’s translator.

What did they talk about? What do the heads of state of two of the world’s most powerful nations say to each other? Did any of it — anything at all — have something to do with that “Russia thing,” the hacking into our electoral process?

They call this kind of thing “rolling disclosure.” It lends itself to whispering, conjecture, speculation. They only way for any of that to be dispelled is for the principals to tell the public in a forthright manner what they discussed and the context that they discussed it.

According to The Washington Post: “But Trump’s newly-disclosed conversation with Putin at the G20 dinner is likely to stoke further criticism, including perhaps from some fellow Republicans in Congress, that he is too cozy with the leader of a major U.S. adversary.”

Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry sought to brush the questions aside, suggesting that “other media” are casting this secret meeting in a negative light. There could be an explanation, Henry said.

Sure thing, hoss. Then we need to know precisely what these two world leaders said to each other. Absent that, what is the world expected to think?


Bush ethics lawyer: Why not give Putin clearance, too?

Richard Painter teaches law at the University of Minnesota.

He once served as ethics adviser to President George W. Bush, so his Republican credentials are well-known. However, he’s demonstrating that ethical conduct ought to ignore partisan consideration.

Professor Painter is furious, fuming, outraged over what he believes is a lack of ethical decorum permeating Donald J. Trump’s administration. Exhibit A: the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Painter believes Kushner should surrender his top-secret White House security clearance because of his numerous contacts with Russian government officials who might have been involved in that Russian hacking and their efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Painter said via Twitter that Kushner’s clearance needs to be revoked, but if the government is going to allow the young man to keep it, then it should just give one to Russian President Vladimir Putin, too.

Check out The Hill report.

Painter has been making the rounds for several months commenting on Donald J. Trump. He isn’t a fan. Perhaps he owes his antagonism to the president’s vocal criticism of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. It might have something to do with the insults that Trump hurled at the former president’s brother, Jeb, during the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign.

Whatever. Professor Painter isn’t holding back.

I cannot blame him for demanding that Donald Trump seek to develop some understanding that “government ethics” need not be an oxymoron.

Another stunning example of incompetence

How many more examples of presidential incompetence do we need to witness?

Here’s the latest one to emerge from the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany: Donald J. Trump announced a joint cyber-security agreement with none other than Vladimir Putin.

That’s it: The president of the United States and the president of Russia agreed in principle to work on ways to prevent governments from hacking into others’ systems.

Oh, but wait! Twelve hours later, Trump tweeted (of course!) a change of heart; we won’t enter into that agreement with Russia after all.

Imagine that. The president backed out totally from an agreement he had his White House communications staff announce to the world.

Intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia hacked our electoral process in 2016. Then the Russian president puts this idea out in his meeting with the U.S. president — who then buys into it.

All the while, Trump keeps dissing our spooks’ expertise on this matter and then sidles up to the government believed to have sought to influence the outcome of our presidential election.

How does a White House staff at any level cope with this kind of capriciousness? How do Cabinet officers know whether to zig or zag as they try to keep the president in their sights?

Is there any wonder at all — having watched this administration stumble, bumble and fumble its way — why the president is having trouble filling so many vacancies?

Did POTUS strengthen U.S. at G20?

Donald Trump has been home for a couple of days, so it’s good to look back just a bit at his second overseas trip as president of the United States.

Did the president strengthen the U.S. standing in the world? Do our allies and our foes see us as stronger now that Trump is president?

I cannot possibly believe that is the case. Indeed, much of the chatter since the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany has centered on Trump’s isolation from the rest of the world.

He has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate change accord, and has been condemned roundly by virtually every other nation in the world that remains committed to the accord. And get a load of this: The other two nations that didn’t sign on in the first place — Nicaragua and Syria — refused because the accord didn’t go far enough. Trump’s reason? He wants to protect U.S. jobs he said are being harmed by onerous regulations.

Then we have that meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump reportedly “pressed” Putin on reports of Russian meddling in our 2016 presidential election. Putin denied it. Then we heard that Trump and Putin had agreed on a joint effort to crack down on cyber-hacking — which is akin to asking Latin American drug lords to craft a plan to stop drug trafficking into the United States.

Trump’s emphasis on “putting America first” isn’t playing well in a world with nations that are increasingly connected. His pre-summit statements about Germany, China, Mexico, Canada and Australia haven’t been forgotten by those countries’ heads of state and government.

Have we restored American greatness on the world stage?

No. Indeed, I believe the president has reduced our once-starring role as the world’s most indispensable nation to second-tier status.