Today’s essential read on Trump and Russia is in the Washington Post, by Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Philip Rucker.
Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.
The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.
The piece frames Trump’s reaction to Russia as an outcome of his ego needs to believe that he and he alone won the election bigly and his wishful thinking that he and Putin, working together, could solve the world’s problems. That’s fair enough, and those two factors are certainly sufficient to produce the effects reported – the biggest of which is that Presidential daily briefings have to be tailored to avoid irritating the Master on the subject.
But a great many people around Trump, including Donald Junior, who testified another nine hours to Congress yesterday, have had extensive contacts with Russia, so it appears there is more there. The question is “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”
Lots of tidbits in the piece. Trump thought Fiona Hill, one of his competent advisors on Russia, was a clerk and got angry at her when she didn’t act like one, with H.R. McMaster compounding the problem by admonishing her. He took a leak during his pre-briefing for his meeting with Angela Merkel. His obsession with NATO as a protection racket continues.
He’s got it half right – we could do a lot of good if we could work with Russia. But that can’t come at the cost of ignoring the load of bad Russia’s doing now.
Update: Here’s a good companion piece by James Goldgeier about Republicans and Russia.
If Trump were a realist, he would be seeking to deal with Russia from a position of strength, not looking to accommodate Putin from the get-go. If he were a neoconservative, he would be pressing Putin on his abysmal human rights record. Instead, he is praising Putin for being strong and being tough. And it is unimaginable that any other president would have merely accepted Putin’s denial of election interference and moved on.
So why hasn’t the GOP spoken up? Yes, there are occasional remarks by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey O. Graham suggesting Donald Trump is getting hoodwinked by Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose efforts working with the Trump campaign to swing the 2016 presidential race are under daily scrutiny.
For the most part, however, GOP voters and GOP elites have shrugged off behavior that would have led to outrage in the past. Since it is hard to imagine that a Jeb Bush or Ted Cruz or even John Kasich would have been this accommodating of Putin, is the party of Ronald Reagan really prepared to become the party of Trump on foreign policy, especially in America’s relations with Russia?