On Monday, Donald Trump stood alongside Vladimir Putin and said he was inclined to take the Russian president’s word over the findings of his own country’s intelligence agencies. A day later, the American president tried to pretend he misspoke.
The same day, however, Trump said Russia is no longer targeting American elections, again contradicting the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community. Later, the White House walked that back, ignoring what was plainly true.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told the Associated Press, “There’s a walk-back of the walk-back of the walk-back of the walk-back? This is dizzying.”And yet, it got worse. On Wednesday, the White House acknowledged that the president was considering a proposal from Putin – which Trump publicly praised – that would involve turning over innocent Americans to Russia for questioning. This, not surprisingly, generated hair-on-fire apoplexy from U.S. officials and a Senate resolution in opposition to the idea that passed unanimously.
All of which led to the third White House walk-back in three days.
Ahead of the Senate vote Thursday on resolution, Sanders issued a follow-up statement backtracking on what she had said a day earlier about Trump’s position.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it. Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt,” she said.
While I’m glad Trump is no longer considering a plan to turn over Americans for Russian interrogation, there’s nothing satisfactory about this particular reversal.
For one thing, the deferential tone, written in such a way as to avoid upsetting Moscow, was absurd on its face. There was nothing “sincere” about Putin’s proposal; it was a stunt Trump was foolish enough to fall for.
For another, this series of embarrassing walk-backs not only make Trump appear weak, they also offer damning evidence that America’s amateur president is simply out of his depth.
As a Washington Post analysis put it, these reversals suggest “he has no idea what he’s doing — and that he was completely out of his element when negotiating with someone like Putin. If that’s the image Trump is trying to project on the world stage, mission accomplished.”