When it comes to Russia's attack on the American elections, the Kremlin wants nothing more than for U.S. officials to raise doubts about Russia's role. Every time an American tries to shield Vladimir Putin's government, or suggests others may bear responsibility, he or she is effectively defending Russia's crimes by boosting the Kremlin's propaganda strategy.
And with that in mind, it was extraordinary to see Donald Trump once again question Russia's role in the attack. The Washington Post reported:
"I think it could very well have been Russia but I think it could well have been other countries, I won't be specific," Trump said at a news conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda. [...]"Nobody really knows," Trump added. "Nobody really knows for sure."
The American president's lengthy response meandered for a while -- it included extensive whining about Barack Obama, a rather dramatic break with protocol for a sitting president appearing on foreign soil -- and eventually included mockery of American intelligence agencies.
"I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq -- weapons of mass destruction," Trump said. "How everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Guess what? That led to one big mess. They were wrong and it led to a mess."
I can appreciate why all of this may seem predictable. For reasons we do not yet know, Donald Trump is willing to mock his own administration's intelligence agencies. He's comfortable raising doubts about Russia's role in an unprecedented attack on the United States. He's comfortable telling the world that the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Security Agency are not entirely trustworthy.
But the fact that we've come to expect inexplicable behavior from the sitting American president doesn't make this any less shocking.
There's also Trump's pattern of incoherence to consider. To date, the trajectory of his responses to this part of the scandal has unfolded in a series of evolving postures: Trump said Russia didn't intervene in the American elections ... which led to Trump's White House eventually acknowledging the opposite ... which led to Trump asking why Obama didn't stop Russia's attack ... which led to Trump circling back to his original argument that Russia might be innocent.
If anyone can come up with a serious defense for the American president's bizarre behavior, I'm eager to hear it.