By Prarthana Mitra
Just when you thought United States President Donald Trump couldn’t make a worse diplomatic blunder than the G7 or NATO summit, he blows it out of the park with the highly anticipated US-Russia presser on July 16, now being dubbed as the #TreasonSummit.
While the entire US administration is on tenterhooks regarding the Russian interference in the 2016 US polls, Trump refused to side with US intelligence, which discovered suspicious links between Washington and Moscow during the presidential election that put Trump in power. At the 2018 Russia–United States summit in Finland, Trump shocked the world with an extraordinary embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin at a time when Special counsel Robert Mueller was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
The troubled relations between Russia and the US attained new heights at Helsinki, when Trump favoured and endorsed Putin’s proofless denial of election interference, instead of being assertive about the US intelligence’s contradicting accusations.
As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
A burlesque power-play
A one-on-one meeting between the two leaders went on for over an hour followed by a bilateral meeting and working lunch. Appearing at a news conference alongside the Russian demagogue, Trump caved spectacularly to Putin, drawing severe backlash and fury from members of the Congress.
Trump has made clear that his loyalties lie with a foreign adversary who attacked our country rather than with U.S. intelligence agencies and the American people. Today’s press conference was a shameful display of cowardice and capitulation. #Helsinki2018
— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) July 16, 2018
Some of the most powerful Republicans and Trump’s biggest aides reprimanded the president after he announced there isn’t “any reason why” Russia would be responsible for collusion when he had won the 2016 election through a “clean campaign“.
Putin, who towered over his American counterpart throughout the meet, denied Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. He downplayed Trump’s conciliatory remarks, asking, “Was it worth going all the way to Helsinki to just insult one another? It’s not exactly the diplomatic standard…We met to try to find a way for improving our relationship and not aggravating it.” While, it may have been the most blatant display of power from Putin, but Trump’s condonation has finally validated claims that his personal interests are above patriotic ones.
During the presser, Putin also handed Trump a soccer ball as a ceremonial gift.
Reactions of fear and disbelief
Many have found Trump’s defence of Putin, over the country’s intelligence, quite troubling, especially since there has n’t been any moral equivalence between the two nations for quite some time.
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci called on the president to take back some of his statements. “Trump’s made a very big mistake here. He’s got to reverse course immediately,” Scaramucci said Tuesday in an interview with CNN.
Considering what just happened, this statement is weak, @SpeakerRyan. Until you stand up and say it’s time to impeach Trump, you continue to be nothing but complicit.#Putin#Treason#Helsinki2018 pic.twitter.com/wSZj9ZZvJd
— Greg Hogben (@MyDaughtersArmy) July 16, 2018
Is this the most serious mistake Trump has made? Perhaps
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker said the President “made us look like a pushover” and that Putin was probably eating caviar on the plane home. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump “took the word of the KGB over the men and women of the CIA.”
Former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by Trump earlier this year, urged patriots to stand up and reject the president, while former CIA Director John Brennan called Trump’s performance “nothing short of treasonous.” Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats reasserted US intelligence’s assessment that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election, without consulting with the White House.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s defense of Putin against the intelligence agencies of the U.S. & his suggestion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Russia poses a grave threat to our national security.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) July 16, 2018
Newt Gingrich, usually an ally, called this “the most serious mistake of his presidency” and called on the president to clarify his controversial remarks.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement said that the president had “surrendered lock, stock and barrel to President Putin’s deceptions about the attacks on America’s democracy.”
The fallout from this can turn catastrophic and unpredictable, and will certainly endanger world peace in a major way. “I have never seen an American president do or say anything remotely like what President Trump did today,” Kerry said, calling the move indefensible and without a precedent.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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