On Friday morning, President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were huddled in the Oval Office. Reporters were allowed in for a few photos and some shouted questions. Fox New Channel's John Roberts asked Trump about the recently-released House Intelligence Committee report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Here's Trump's answer -- courtesy of CNN's invaluable Betsy Klein:
"We were honored. It was a great report, no collusion, which I knew anyway, no coordination, no nothing. It's a witch hunt, that's all it is. There was no collusion with Russia, you can believe this one. She (Merkel) probably can't believe it, who can? But the report was very powerful, very strong, there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian people. Cause I've said many times before, I've always said there was no collusion, but I've also said there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me. With that all being said, if we can get along with Russia, that's a good thing, not a bad thing, but there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me."
Trump's answer runs 121 words. It's eight sentences long. He uses the phrase "no collusion" four separate times -- not to mention references to "no coordination" and "no nothing. And there's a "witch hunt" thrown in for good measure!
This is the second time in as many weeks where Trump, when sharing the stage with a world leader, has fallen into simply repeating his "no collusion" mantra over and over again.
At Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week, Trump was asked whether, given recent events, he had changed his mind about sitting down with special counsel Robert Mueller.
In the first line of his answer, Trump said the word "no collusion" three distinct times. He went on to say "no collusion" twice more before he was finished responding.
The effect of this repetition is clear: Whether you like it or not, it drives those two words -- "NO COLLUSION" -- into your brain. Sort of like "Make America Great Again." Or "Crooked Hillary." Or "Lyin' Ted." Or one of the myriad other pejorative nicknames Trump has bestowed on his political opponents.
As always with Trump, the question is whether he is doing what he is doing on purpose or simply because he is absolutely and totally fixated on the idea that he did not collude with the Russian government during the 2016 election.
No matter why Trump says what he says, it's important to remember a few things:
- The House Intelligence Committee findings were roundly rejected by the Democrats on the panel
- The Senate Intelligence Committee continues its probe into Russian meddling
- Mueller's special counsel investigation into meddling and the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia continues
- Collusion isn't the only thing at play here. Obstruction of justice -- in regards the firing of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn -- is also in the mix
In the face of that hugely complex thicket of legal, criminal and political issues, the President of the United States just keeps shouting "No Collusion." Make of that what you will.