Following the annual NATO summit of leaders, President Trump flew to Helsinki to meet with Russian President / dictator Vladimir Putin. In the joint press conference that followed, there were some statements that were….well, quite amazing.Among the issues that was sure to come up was the topic of Russian meddling in elections. Trump, in an amazing statement said he trusted a foreign leader more than he trusted his own Administration’s staff of intelligence and foreign service officials.
“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. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.
Yeah, sounds like he has great confidence in his intelligence officials, doesn’t it?
Trump’s own head of national intelligence immediately responded and reinforced the widespread findings of the intelligence agencies that Russian attempted to influence the US election. (For that matter, Russia and the Soviet Union have meddled in US elections since the 1920’s.) And reaction across the political spectrum is one of astonishment. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and Trump supporter tweeted immediately after the press conference that Trump’s statement was “the most serious mistake of his presidency and should be corrected-immediately.”
So let’s step back and understand what happened: the US President just went to a summit with a foreign leader, a leader of a country upon whom we have imposed sanctions because of especially antagonistic behavior including assassinations and invasions of neighboring countries. At the end of that summit, he then held a joint press conference where he said that he trusted the word of that dictator more than he trusted his own employees and all of the collective evidence that they had presented and the indictments handed down on twelve Russian nationals .
Do you remember the criticism of President Obama and his ‘national apology tours’, when he went overseas and apologized for past US actions? Yet President Trump began the summit by saying our relations with Russia were the result of ‘stupid’ previous US policy and then internationally said he had no trust in his own Administration. As bad as Obama’s statements were, Trump’s are even worse and for many of the same reasons.
This may go down as one of the most disastrous days in US foreign policy history. And, as noted above, this isn’t a partisan opinion. Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals all agree.
This is the most dramatic example to date that Trump’s biggest problem is his own big mouth. Fortunately, many in his Administration labor on and do their jobs in spite of what he says, which often make no sense. This is one that may do lasting damage. Unfortunately, his huge ego won’t allow it but his staff needs to do whatever they can to keep him from traveling overseas to meet with foreign leaders. He just can’t help himself and as a result ends up doing damage to the United States and our interests.