Ignoring intel report, Trump eyes diplomatic favor for Russia

On the one hand, Trump says "nobody has been tougher on Russia" than him. On the other, he's eager to hand Putin an unearned diplomatic reward.
Image: FINLAND-US-RUSSIA-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-SUMMIT
Russia's President Vladimir Putin listens while President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Finland's Presidential Palace on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file
By Steve Benen

Late last week, the Trump administration confirmed a striking revelation: four years after Russia targeted U.S. elections to help put Donald Trump in power, Kremlin-linked operatives are once again taking active and deliberate steps to boost the Republican ticket, in part by trying to sabotage Joe Biden's candidacy.

Within hours of the release of the report from William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the incumbent American president inexplicably declared, "I think that the last person Russia wants to see in office is Donald Trump because nobody has been tougher on Russia than I have, ever."

When a reporter reminded the president that his own country's intelligence proves otherwise, Trump replied, "Well, I don't care what anybody says."

To be sure, it's tough to argue with a posture like that one.

But as it turns out, Trump wasn't done, going even further during a White House press briefing yesterday. "You know who else is not happy with us winning?" the president asked reporters rhetorically. "Russia."

This is, of course, the exact opposite of what his own administration just put in writing for the world to see.

It was at the same briefing, however, that the Republican decided to step all over his own argument.

President Donald Trump said Monday that he wants to host the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations after the November presidential election and still wants to invite Russia, which was kicked out of the G-7 after it annexed Crimea.

How oddly perfect.

On the one hand, Trump wants voters to believe that "nobody has been tougher on Russia" than him, overwhelming evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and that Russia is eager to see him lose, despite his own administration's intelligence. But on the other hand, there's the Republican president, looking to deliver an unearned diplomatic reward for Vladimir Putin, for reasons unknown.

If Trump doesn't want his talking points to be laughable, he'll need to do better.