HELSINKI, FINLAND - JULY 16: U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a joint press conference after their...
Chris McGrath

Insisting there was ‘no collusion,’ Trump quotes Putin

Updated

Almost immediately after Donald Trump’s disastrous press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, the American president sat down with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, and as expected, the interview didn’t exactly break new ground.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 7/16/18, 9:46 PM ET

McFaul: Trump with Putin shows U.S. 'national security crisis'

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, talks with Rachel Maddow about the public reaction to Donald Trump’s deference to Vladimir Putin at their Helsinki press conference, and what the appropriate public response is to the realization that
Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, talks with Rachel Maddow about the public reaction to Donald Trump’s deference to Vladimir Putin at their Helsinki press conference, and what the appropriate public response is to the realization that
But there was one exchange that struck me as funny. Reflecting on his private, one-on-one meeting with Putin, Trump shared some of what he’d heard from his Russian counterpart.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, he said there was no collusion whatsoever. I guess he said he said as strongly as you can say it. […]

HANNITY: He said it was nonsense.

TRUMP: He said it’s nonsense, that’s right. He also says there is absolutely no collusion.

Oh. Well, in that case, this changes everything. There’s quite a bit of evidence pointing to cooperation between Russia and Trump’s political operation during Russia’s attack on the United States, but if Vladimir Putin privately told the American president there was “absolutely no collusion,” then I guess the scandal’s over and Special Counsel Robert Mueller can return to private practice.

It’s not as if Vladimir Putin would lie about such a thing, right? What better witness could Trump possibly quote on the matter than the foreign autocrat who stands accused of orchestrating the intelligence operation that put Trump in power?

There was a degree of irony hanging over the exchange. As the Washington Post’s editorial board noted overnight, “In Helsinki, Mr. Trump again insisted ‘there was no collusion’ with Russia. Yet in refusing to acknowledge the plain facts about Russia’s behavior, while trashing his own country’s justice system, Mr. Trump in fact was openly colluding with the criminal leader of a hostile power.”

It’s an important point. Trump didn’t just benefit from Putin’s efforts, and doesn’t just stand accused of possibly cooperating with those efforts, he also spent some time yesterday trying to help cover the efforts up.

There are worse definitions of “collusion.”