It’s become painfully hard to track exactly where we’re at with the investigation into possible interference in the 2016 U.S. election by Russia, given that something insane seems to happen every single day. But here’s some optics for you: Donald Trump made a joint appearance with Vladimir Putin in which he publicly accepted the Russian president’s denial of election meddling.
Here's the video. Trump, asked whether he believes in his own U.S. Intelligence Community or Putin on Russian hacking, Trump responds: "I don't see any reason why it would be [Russia.]" (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/sKLSeVaqlS— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 16, 2018
He told reporters that he believed Putin’s denials of any attempts at election meddling.
They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.
Why is this so significant? Well, whether or not you believe that Russia meddled in the 2016 election or not, the FBI very much does – which means that Trump is actively and publicly siding with Putin over his own agencies. Again, maybe not surprising if you’re familiar with Donald’s general attitude towards entrenched power in Washington. But it’s significant nonetheless.
For his part, Putin stated that he did want Trump to win the 2016 election – as he saw him as the more reliably pro-Russia candidate – but denied any wrongdoing. “We should be guided by facts,” he told journalists. “Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned.”
Trump’s comments come just days after a prosecutor announced indictments had been issued against several alleged Russian spies for hacking into Democratic Party networks.
The president’s opponents, including some in the Republican Party, have described the president as “treasonous” for siding with the Kremlin over his own agencies. The most senior elected Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, was particularly stringent in his condemnation:
The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.
On the other hand, supporters of Trump back his claim that he is merely trying to mend a broken relationship with Russia, arguing that it’s probably for the best that the two most aggressively nuclear-armed countries in the world try and get along.