About the only person on the planet who still doubts that Russia interfered with the U.S. presidential election last year is President Donald Trump.
Given the reality of the Russian interference in U.S. democratic processes, in any other administration, a one–on–one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin would have been a tense affair, presumably with the U.S. president holding Putin’s feet to the fire. But not in the parallel universe that is governed by Donald Trump.
According to The New York Times’ Glenn Thrush, Trump began his sit–down Friday with Putin—a meeting that lasted well over two hours—with the hard–hitting question: “I’m going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?”
Way to throw Putin off–balance, Donald.
The account of Trump’s softball approach to the Russian leader comes from an associate of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the only other official allowed to attend the meeting. A senior White House official briefed on the meeting did say that Trump pressed Putin for 40 minutes on the issue before moving on, Thrush reported.
But Axios reported that Trump continues to doubt that Russia is actively attacking the U.S.
“Not only does he not buy the extent of the Russian transgression, he has continued to call it ‘fake’ in private,” Axios’ Mike Allen wrote.
“The cognitive dissonance — between his pride in his victory, and the fact that a sinister foreign force might’ve helped him — is too strong for him to ever fully believe it,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan added.
Trump essentially confirmed this in a series of tweets on Sunday. “I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion… Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” Trump tweeted.
Then, bizarrely, Trump announced that he had agreed to work with Putin to create “an impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to prevent future election interference and “many other negative things.”
That tweet caused a torrent of analogies, like this one from former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter:
Some of the harshest criticism came from members of Trump’s own party. Sen. Lindsay Graham told NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd that Trump’s proposed cybersecurity unit is “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”
He added that “when it comes to Russia, [Trump’s] got a blind spot, and to forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyber–attacks, is to empower Putin. And that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, certainly no moral bellwether, said that teaming up with Putin on cybersecurity is like “partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’”
And on CBS’ Face the Nation, Sen. John McCain said, “I am sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he’s doing the hacking.”
Despite all of this, a delusional (or intentionally dishonest) White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared on Fox News Sunday to tell host Chris Wallace that Trump “was a star in Hamburg.”
Priebus also was adamant—despite no evidence to date—that Trump did not believe Putin’s denial about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
And the parallel realities involving the Trump administration and the rest of the world continue drifting farther and farther apart.
Update: President Trump was just kidding about that “Cyber Security unit” thing. Ha Ha.