Trump’s responses to questions at Monday’s joint press conference may seem miles away by now. But, I’ll repeat a few critical parts and add my comments given in italics. It was a disaster, on many fronts. Unfortunately, I don’t think Trump was “off his game” on this one. I think we’re going to see more excusing the actions of countries with not respect for human rights (Turkey, the Philippines and Egypt, come to mind) and attacks on our friends.
I have included in the links that the transcript of the entire press conference as provided by National Public Radio.
Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular? And if so, what would you what would you consider them that they are responsible for?
TRUMP: Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, have to do it, ultimately that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on. But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.
I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated.
There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re gonna have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her. And I’m not even saying from the standpoint…we won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. But the main thing and we discussed this also is zero collusion and it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries.
It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the [Mueller] probe.
Trump’s answer is pretty clear. He standing there side by side with Putin, and is saying is he wishes that the Russian interference in our elections in 2016 would be just swept under the rug. When he holds US partially responsible, this is pointing the finger to Obama administration policies. It is as if, the Obama administration just didn’t know how to conduct diplomacy. Trump is not going into any details on the US foolishness, but were the sanctions imposed by Obama really so foolish? Russia was propping up the regime in Syria with military support, even after they used chemical weapons on their own people. Russia has been involved in the assassination of dissidents outside their borders. Residents of England were likely horrified at Trump’s statement were, as they witnessed the Salisbury poisoning (Sergei and Yulia Skripal). Trump was obviously, avoided past conflicts, including the takeover of Crimea, support of separatists in Ukraine, and human rights abuses, such as the likely Kremlin ordered murder of Sergei Magnitsky in 2005, when he discovered tax fraud corruption among Russia’s richest citizens on a wide scale. Dissidents and whistle blowers seem to turn up dead. The hand of the Kremlin at going after enemies of the state is worldwide. (see link)
REPORTER: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?
TRUMP: Well, I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question. But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win because the electoral college is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans. We won the Electoral College by a lot. 306 to 223, I believe. And that was a well fought, that was a well fought battle. We did a great job. And frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. But just to say it one time again and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign and every time you hear all of these you know 12 and 14 – stuff that has nothing to do and frankly they admit – these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they’re saying well maybe that does. It doesn’t. And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories or in one case the FBI said there was no lie. There was no lie. Somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president. Thank you.
The question is actual about “election intervention.” Trump steered the question to collusion, and since he claims he had never personally met Putin before the election, he feels vindicated. In Putin’s response, he says: “We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense.” So Trump and Putin see eye-to-eye on this. Intervention = collusion = nonsense. In Putin’s reply to extradition, he brings up the idea of swapping Mr. Browder for 12 indicted Russians. Putin states: “They [Browder business associates] sent a huge amount of money – 400 million – as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.” The actual figure is $400,000. I will cover the actions of Mr. Browder in a separate blog. Putin is not saying no to extradition, but simply saying that it has to go through proper channels.
The following is the question that has help cause an enormous backlash:
REPORTER, AP: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?
TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others 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. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties.
I really believe that this will probably go on for a while but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s thirty three thousand e-mails.
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 and what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. Ok? Thank you.
Trump could have answered this in two short sentences: (1) The conclusion of election interference by Russia in 2016 by US intelligence is right, and (2) Putin should not try this again. He didn’t do either. Even in the wake of the indictments of 12 Russian military officials, he wasn’t about to walk back on his hundreds of tweets stating that Mueller’s investigation was a witch hunt and the FBI under Comey was incompetent. Mind you, Trump wasn’t asked if there was collusion or even involvement of the Trump’s campaign officials in this interference. He was defending Putin more than the US government. This “incredible offer” was considered by the State Department as absurd.
In one key phase, Trump later said he misspoke, and meant to say wouldn’t instead of would. Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC commentator) got it right, when he said the statement was beyond fixing. To do so, was an insult to the intelligence of Americans.
I count a total of 23 sentences. I count 19 of these sentences would fall under the category of FBI misconduct in the areas of deliberately incomplete or improper investigation. So, he is back on the witch hunt theme. There’s only one statement (“My people came to me, Dan Coats, came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia.”) Yikes! Dan Coats is the Director of National Intelligence, and it is his job to provide the president of all national security threats from multiple US agencies. Of course, Dan Coats immediately issued a statement after the press conference, stating that it was absolutely true that Russia interfered with our election.
Trump is demeaning the FBI because in 2015 and 2016, it was under Director Comey’s command. The missing emails is a mess It confuses a subpoena from the Benghazi Committee in 2015, with the FBI’s investigation of the Russian hacked DNC server in 2016. The first statement about the server of the Pakistani gentleman is false, and the second one refers to accidental deletions of email that were not at Clinton’s direction. The Benghazi Committee was just trolling for dirt on Hillary Clinton prior to the election. All Trump was trying to do, is to attack the integrity of the FBI in years before he was president.
Russia is taking the lead, where the US is shrinking back globally. It supports the Iran nuclear deal and is party to the Paris Climate Agreement. It even came to the rescue of the World Health Organization, as US pressured countries not to introduce the breastfeeding resolution. It is looking for strengthening economic ties with China, as we look to punish them with tariffs. There is nothing more desirable in Putin’s priorities than restoring their hold on the Eastern European countries. That’s why Putin brings up the Minsk agreements.
The word change only shows how Trump believes he can easily fool the American people. Helsinki was a disaster for the US and a victory for Vladimir Putin. Dialogue with Russia is important, but standing firm with Eastern Europe and NATO is vital.
(The conclusion was that the deletion was not done at the direction of Clinton. These were old emails, and to the technician in charge of the server, was a routine cleanup effort and unaware of the subpoena. When he learned of the subpoena, he describes this as the “Oh shit” moment.