We have just witnessed one of the most disgraceful moments in the modern history of the United States presidency. Donald Trump, American president, held a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and sided, over and over again, with the thuggish authoritarian leader of a geopolitical adversary who engineered an attack on U.S. democracy. He lined up against his own intelligence community, his domestic political opponents, and the free press. It should go down with his performance after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, when he so infamously suggested there were “very fine people on both sides” -that is, that very fine people march alongside Nazis.
Actually, the American president had an eerily similar moment Monday, when he essentially blamed both sides for the poor relations between the U.S. and Russia. No, like the white supremacists in Charlottesville, it’s not Russia’s fault for its aggression in Europe and its attack on America. It is, according to the U.S. president, the fault of all of us. This was a continuation of his rhetoric in the lead-up.
But the essential moment came when an Associated Press reporter asked Trump whether, on the question of whether Russia hacked and meddled in the 2016 presidential election, he believed the U.S. intelligence community or Vladimir Putin. Here was his response:
Asked whether he believes US intel or Putin, Trump goes on tirade against FBI over “DNC Server”, says it’s not clear who to believe. pic.twitter.com/d7Viw1Vn4B
– Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 16, 2018
The Server? Hillary Clinton’s emails? Blaming the FBI?
The collusion has long been happening right in front of us. It is public. It is shameless. It is entirely unapologetic. The Russian president admitted publicly Monday that he wanted Trump to win the election. The President of the United States has consistently sided with the Russian president against his own people and the interests of the country he leads. How can there be any doubt anymore that something is affecting his incentive structure and causing him to behave this way?
As if to drive home the point, a member of the free press present at the press conference asked Vladimir Putin directly whether he had compromising material on the president or his family:
That is not, you will note, a damn denial. But does it even matter? The consequences are the same: United States policy is now congruent with Russian policy, regardless of the consequences for democracy and the western world. This is a five-alarm fire.