President Putin, before our attention can be focused else, there is an overriding issue that I intend to address in the most forceful way:  I have been thoroughly briefed by our Intelligence community and its members have spoken to me with one voice; you sir are directly responsible for directing your operatives to meddle in our last national election and they did so in ways that are too numerous mention. You can choose to deny all this, but it will do no good.

In response to your dangerous involvement, President Obama increased the sanctions on your country, expelled 35 so-called Russian “diplomats”, and seized back two of your enclaves in Virginia (1). As we speak, the US Senate is crafting a new and tougher set of sanctions that will be superimposed on the existing ones. None of that is going to change as a result of our meeting now, and that includes assurances you might give me about the future.

What I am sharing with you are not just my words; they are the sentiments of the vast majority of the American people. As their leader, I stand resolutely with them. If you or anyone in your employ, whether Russian or not, undertakes anything similar in the future, the sanctions against you will only get worse and we will find our own ways of retaliating.

Now, there are serious issues that need to be addressed; Syria, ISIS and North Korea to name just a few. We can seek common ground, but you have a great deal of trust that you must rebuild if we are to make any progress in solving those and other problems. We will not just be watching; we will be vigilant and ready to act should you choose to ignore what I have said to you today. 

**  If only we had a president who would have made such a statement yesterday during his meeting with President Putin. Unfortunately, no stenographer or note-taker was present as the two leaders spoke. So, we are left to make educated guesses about what Trump said, based on his past utterances and what Secretary of State Tillerson offered in his synopsis of what transpired.

+ 45 has never issued a full-throated acceptance of the major findings of our Intelligence community. Rather, he has ranged from flat-out denial (“a hoax…fake new”) to equivocation (“Maybe it was Russia…”).  There is absolutely no reason to believe that he retreated from his history of denial and/or mealy mouthing. In fact, according to Tillerson, his boss would only allow that he was bringing this matter up on behalf of “the American people”, not as something over which he too was deeply distressed.

+ Tillerson, speaking on Trump’s behalf, said that the president had “pressed” the issue of Russian interference in his dialogue with Putin. What exactly does “pressed” mean? Was there a confrontation, a stern rebuke, a demand that the meddling stop? We are unlikely to ever know. But, there is no reason to believe that anything that pointed was involved in Trump “pressing” Putin.

+ In the absence of any record to the contrary, we must leave open the possibility that 45 is prepared to put the Russian meddling in his rear view mirror and simply move on. He apparently made no concessions to Russia, but may have left them on the table.

+ Russian representative Lavrov claimed, after the meeting, that Trump had accepted Putin’s denial of any responsibility for the meddling. Trump’s spokespeople say nothing like that happened. Again, we are stuck without a record of what really transpired.

End notes

For decades through Republican and Democrat presidencies, we rarely had difficulty in choosing who to believe; our leader or an adversary?  Now, we must decide between a man with a long history of serial lying and another individual who would do us harm.

As the Commander-in-Chief of the aggrieved country and armed with the evidence from our Intelligence community, Trump could have gone into his meeting with Putin from a position of both strength and moral superiority. Instead, he gave that all away and spent over two hours in an exchange with Putin as his equal; something he and we most certainly did not owe the Russian dictator. At the moment, it is hard to decide if 45 is just feckless, or has some grandiose plan which he thinks that he and Putin can effectuate together. The latter is the stuff of geopolitical fantasies that Putin will nourish in the hope that by doing so, he can play Trump and bend him to his will.

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  1. Those actions, taken by then-President Obama fly in the face of conservatives’ claim that upon learning of the Russian meddling, he did “nothing”.

 

Erratum

In the last blog posted at this site, there were erroneous references to “Paul Manaford”. The proper reference should have been to “Paul Manafort”. The lapses were mine and cannot be dismissed as typos.

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