Hiding in plain sight

Greg Sargent at the Post points out that Trump is colluding with Putin right now, as we watch.

In Helsinki today, Trump and Putin spoke to reportersbefore entering their private meeting. Trump predicted that “I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship,” adding that “getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.” But as The Post’s write-up puts it: “Trump did not mention Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign as one of the topics to be discussed.”

On Friday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted a dozen Russian military intelligence officials in an extraordinary and wide-ranging set of cyberattacks on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic National Committee officials, alleging a detailed plot to sabotage the election that established the clearest connection yet to the Russian government. Yet not only did Trump fail to say he’d bring up Russian sabotage of our election with Putin, he also tweeted this:

In blaming only previous U.S. leadership and the current Mueller probe for bad relations with Russia — and not Russia’s attack on our democracy, which is particularly galling, now that this attack has been described in great new detail — Trump is not merely spinning in a way that benefits himself. He’s also giving a gift to Putin, by signaling that he will continue to do all he can to delegitimize efforts to establish the full truth about Russian interference, which in turn telegraphs that Russia can continue such efforts in the future (which U.S. intelligence officials have warned will happen in the 2018 elections). In a sense, by doing this, Trump is colluding with such efforts right now.

But if he does it out in the open it becomes diplomacy as opposed to collusion with Russia to steal elections. It’s the same logic as the notorious “Russia, if you’re listening” shout-out during the campaign – if he tells Russia to sabotage Clinton right out in the open then it’s just campaigning, not collusion with Russia to steal elections.

Trump, who himself used the material funneled through WikiLeaks by Russia as a weapon, is in effect now rewarding Russian efforts to supply it, by refusing to treat this sabotage as a crime against our political system. You can, of course, adopt far worse interpretations of what Trump is giving to Putin as part of this basic bargain, and of his motives for doing so. But even if you don’t, this one is now inescapable.

Feeling helpless yet?

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