Reaction To President Trump's
Performance In Helsinki:
a Pathetic Novice”
July 17, 2018
Chronicle news & opinion
Trump & Putin in Helsinki, Finland
By Rex D. Cain
(NATIONAL) – A shocked and stunned America and its allies along with US intelligence agency chiefs watched slack-jawed and in disbelief as President Donald Trump stood at a podium in Helsinki, Finland looking weak, submissive and for all the world like Vladimir Putin’s servant boy as he threw his own countrymen and intelligence services under the bus for the man John McCain once famously called a “killer and a thug.”
It is not a stretch to call Trump’s performance at that joint news conference with Putin one of the most stunning and shocking moments in history as a US President – President of the most powerful and richest nation on earth - dissolved before the world’s eyes into a milk toast, groveling, shell of a human being before Vladimir Putin, a ruthless former KGB officer turned ruthless Russian dictator.
It was such a stunning performance on Trump’s part that, had it not been broadcast live and made available on video, many people might not have believed it had they only the printed word of the event to rely upon.
An observer had to actually see Trump’s face, look into his eyes, listen to his weak voice, watch his body mannerisms, watch carefully his facial expressions (The Guardian, a British newspaper ran a video of Trump “winking” at Putin during a sit-down photo op as if to say, “I got your back pal”) to understand what a devastating moment that was for America’s stature on the world stage.
A small sampling of the reaction to how badly Donald Trump made himself and America look as the result of his embarrassingly weak and inexplicable performance while standing alongside Putin:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): Trump’s “press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.” In his statement McCain said he found it “painful and inexplicable” how Trump’s advisers could allow such “blunders and capitulations” to happen. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.): “Never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.): “Saddened...deeply disappointing”...made the U.S. look like a “pushover.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): Trump “failed to stand up to Vladimir Putin on some of the most critical security issues facing our country and our allies.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): Described President Trump’s attempt to spread the blame for poor U.S-Russian relations as “bizarre and flat-out wrong...Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression,” he said. “When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”
Mitt Romney, U.S. Senate candidate and 2012 Republican presidential nominee: “President Trump’s decision to side with Putin over American intelligence agencies is disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles,” Romney said in a tweet. “Russia remains our number one geopolitical adversary; claiming a moral equivalence between the United States and Russia not only defies reason and history, it undermines our national integrity and impairs our global credibility.”
The Los Angeles Times noted that, “For all the criticism, however (by a few GOP members), Republicans (in general) “had little to say about any actions they might take in response to Trump's remarks.”
The Democrats, CNN’s Cooper, former CIA Director John O. Brennan
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.): Was “appalled” by Trump’s comments. “For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, American intelligence agencies is thoughtless. It’s dangerous. It’s weak. The president is putting himself over our country.”
Former CIA Director John O. Brennan: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to [and] exceeds the threshold of “high crimes [and] misdemeanors. It was nothing short of treasonous.”
CNN’s award winning newsman Anderson Cooper: “You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader, really, that I’ve ever seen — an extraordinary press conference.”
Vox.com noted that Cooper’s take on Trump’s performance, “Followed the bizarre press conference in which Trump said he had no reason to believe that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election — directly contradicting the findings of US intelligence agencies who have said definitively that Russian did meddle in the election.”
“In doing so, Trump was effectively siding with Putin — who had roundly denied that Russian meddling took place in 2016. When asked directly whether he believe the US intelligence communities or Putin on the question, Trump gave little doubt that he trusts Russia more.”
Don Lemon, CNN evening news host: “Trump went from an alpha dog to a lap dog.”
The Russian military officers, GOP urgings to Trump on how to treat Putin
The press conference with Trump & Putin came just days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted yet more Russians - 12 Russian intelligence officers to be exact - on charges of hacking into the emails in Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign as well as into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Trump’s performance on that stage was made all the more shocking and bizarre, given the fact that Republican lawmakers had publicly urged President Trump (ahead of the meeting with Putin) to warn Putin not to interfere again in American elections.
Instead, Trump declined to criticize Russia - even in the most mild fashion - and even when asked point-blank to do so during that 45-minute joint news conference where he shockingly sided with the Russians over his own intelligence agencies’ conclusion about Russia’s interference in the US Presidential election which Trump won: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump told reporters in Helsinki.
Even on Fox “Fake” News – the promotion arm of the extremist Alt-Right movement and what is left of the Republican party (it is now the Trump party) – they couldn’t believe how they saw Trump act in front of Putin.
Fox & Friends Weekend host Abby Huntsman (the daughter of Russian Ambassador Jon Huntsman) tweeted: “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”
Fox news host Bret Baier called Trump’s performance “surreal.” At the Fox Business Network host Neil Cavuto called Trump’s press conference “disgusting.”
So what to make of what Trump did in Helsinki?
For a long time some writers, pundits and Trump observers have been talking (seriously) about the possibility that Trump has been “compromised” in some way by the Russians and is now acting the part of a “Russian asset” with Putin taking the form of Trump’s handler.
Even former FBI Director James Comey said he thinks it is “a possibility" Trump has been compromised by the Russians. There is a fascinating story about that angle published earlier this month in New York Magazine that says in part:
“The first intimations that Trump might harbor a dark secret originated among America’s European allies, which, being situated closer to Russia, have had more experience fending off its nefarious encroachments. In 2015, Western European intelligence agencies began picking up evidence of communications between the Russian government and people in Donald Trump’s orbit.
In April 2016, one of the Baltic states shared with then–CIA director John Brennan an audio recording of Russians discussing funneling money to the Trump campaign. In the summer of 2016, Robert Hannigan, head of the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ, flew to Washington to brief Brennan on intercepted communications between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The contents of these communications have not been disclosed, but what Brennan learned obviously unsettled him profoundly. In congressional testimony on Russian election interference last year, Brennan hinted that some Americans might have betrayed their country. “Individuals who go along a treasonous path,” he warned, “do not even realize they’re along that path until it gets to be a bit too late.”
In an interview this year, he put it more bluntly: “I think [Trump] is afraid of the president of Russia. The Russians may have something on him personally that they could always roll out and make his life more difficult.”
And this from that New York Magazine piece: “Perhaps we should give more credence to the possibility that Brennan is making these extraordinary charges of treason and blackmail at the highest levels of government because he knows something we don’t...suppose we are currently making the same mistake we made at the outset of this drama — suppose the dark crevices of the Russia scandal run not just a little deeper but a lot deeper.
If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.
And it would mean the Russia scandal began far earlier than conventionally understood and ended later — indeed, is still happening.”