Trump dodges question on Russian interference

President Donald Trump declines to say whether he agrees with US intelligence agencies' assessments that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, instead choosing to attack Hillary Clinton and the DNC.

Posted: Jul 17, 2018 11:43 AM
Updated: Jul 17, 2018 12:02 PM

How much longer can the foreign policy leaders in President Donald Trump's Cabinet stick by this President?

The Helsinki, Finland, summit will surely go down as one of the worst-ever presidential performances on the international stage. Not since President John F. Kennedy was thoroughly intimidated when he met with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna, Austria, in 1961 has an American president been so completely and artfully outflanked by his Russian counterpart.

At a press conference in Helsinki standing next to Russian President Vladimir Putin, instead of endorsing the unanimous finding of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, Trump observed that Putin was "extremely strong and powerful in his denial."

Well, that settles it then! We will always take the word of Putin, a former longtime KGB official whose actions around the world have run counter to American interests, against those of America's key intelligence agencies.

For good measure, Trump dumped on his own country, "I think that the United States has been foolish. We've all been foolish. We're all to blame." Really? In fact, as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation has painstakingly revealed, the ones to blame are a small coterie of officers in Russia's military intelligence agency GRU, acting no doubt under the orders of Putin.

Surely Trump's performance in Helsinki must have the members of his war Cabinet asking themselves: How can I continue serving in this administration? After all, these are serious public servants, much of whose lives have been bound up in countering first the Soviet threat and now the Russian threat.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis enlisted in the Marine Corps in the late 1960s when he was 18 and when the Cold War was at its height.

During his confirmation hearings to become defense secretary, Mattis described the Russians as the number one threat to the United States and opined that Putin was seeking to break up the NATO alliance.

In the Pentagon's defense strategy released in January, Mattis again described Russia as a key threat.

This was a similar conclusion to that of the national security strategy review overseen by now-departed national security adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster that was released in December.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's first assignment as an Army officer was patrolling the border between West Germany and East Germany as the Cold War wound down.

At his confirmation hearing for secretary of state, Pompeo said, "Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy toward that aggression."

In May, Pompeo said the United States has a "great deal more work to do" to safeguard the November midterm elections from outside interference.

Dan Coats, who oversees the 17 American intelligence agencies, testified in March that Russia "is likely to continue to pursue even more aggressive [cyber] attacks, with the intent of degrading our Democratic values and weakening our alliances."

After Trump's bizarre press conference on Monday, Coats' office released a statement pushing back on the President's bromance with Putin, saying, "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy. ..."

In the past Trump's current national security adviser, John Bolton, has called Putin a "liar" and Russia's election-meddling in 2016 an "act of war." Bolton has moderated his tone on Russia of late, but clearly, he is naturally a skeptic of Putin and his works.

So, we are now in the bizarre place where the Trump administration seems to have two sets of policies about Russia. There is the policy of the administration, which has taken a fairly hard line on Russia, for instance, expelling 60 Russian diplomats in March after Russia's attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a nerve agent.

Then there is the policy of the President, who continues to embrace Putin and to deny the assessments of his own intelligence agencies. How long is this really sustainable for the members of Trump's war Cabinet? Or put another way, at what point should it no longer be tolerable?

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 591445

Reported Deaths: 7367
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Hennepin1224421730
Ramsey51212875
Dakota45791452
Anoka41604438
Washington26834283
Stearns22196222
St. Louis17734303
Scott17244124
Wright16009139
Olmsted1322598
Sherburne1167187
Carver1047545
Clay814492
Rice8037107
Blue Earth749641
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Kandiyohi654283
Chisago596651
Otter Tail574078
Benton568297
Goodhue477272
Douglas466375
Mower464832
Winona453950
Itasca435556
McLeod422559
Isanti419664
Morrison418260
Nobles407648
Beltrami394459
Steele386715
Polk383568
Becker379751
Lyon360251
Carlton345054
Freeborn341529
Pine327822
Nicollet325643
Brown305040
Mille Lacs303253
Le Sueur290922
Todd281632
Cass271328
Meeker255740
Waseca235922
Martin230531
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Pennington153619
Chippewa152138
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Aitkin134736
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Jackson121712
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Yellow Medicine114120
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Murray10619
Swift105218
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Marshall88117
Clearwater86616
Koochiching82715
Wilkin81112
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Lac qui Parle75222
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Lincoln5813
Grant5748
Mahnomen5469
Norman5399
Unassigned48993
Kittson48622
Red Lake3957
Traverse3695
Lake of the Woods3243
Cook1620

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 366827

Reported Deaths: 5937
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57596625
Linn20845335
Scott20025241
Black Hawk15803308
Woodbury15128228
Johnson1447483
Dubuque13368208
Dallas1117898
Pottawattamie11113168
Story1061248
Warren577088
Clinton555593
Cerro Gordo539789
Sioux514474
Webster512393
Marshall482975
Muscatine480799
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Wapello4299122
Buena Vista424540
Jasper418872
Plymouth401180
Lee375755
Marion362575
Jones298957
Henry291637
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Bremer284360
Crawford266440
Boone264534
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Washington254150
Dickinson248343
Mahaska230351
Jackson221742
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Kossuth215364
Delaware209541
Tama209571
Winneshiek196834
Page192622
Buchanan191232
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Wright184637
Hamilton179849
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Clayton169456
Butler164934
Mills162322
Madison162219
Floyd160542
Cherokee158738
Lyon157941
Poweshiek154734
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Iowa148724
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Franklin120021
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