You don’t have to think about it too much to imagine the huge smile on Putin’s face when he heard those words from Trump. Because this means that Trump continues to be unable to dissociate the discoveries that Russia has actively sought to interfere in the last presidential election from the idea that admitting that fact somehow robs his credit for winning.
The two things, of course, are not mutually exclusive. Russia stepped into the election to help Trump and injure Hillary Clinton, is Trump has won.
The President’s inability to grasp this nuance means that he continues to reject the findings of the intelligence community, the Robert Mueller special council investigation and the Republican-led Senate intelligence committee, which concluded that, yes, Russia has conducted a vast and profound campaign to interfere in the 2016 elections and, yes, it was meant to help Trump, whom they considered best for their Clinton interests. (To be clear: none of these investigations produced conclusive evidence that a single vote was modified by Russia’s effort.)
And unfortunately, this is not the first time that Trump has rejected the results of those various investigations while Putin was present.
That was then – and is now – music for Putin’s ears. And that’s because Trump’s blind spot on Russian interference isn’t just a backward problem. It has important consequences for the next 2020 elections.
It’s simple: Russia considers its interference in the 2016 elections a great success. And they are planning to take it to the next level in 2020.
Virtually everyone in the United States government understands this, except the President of the United States. The problem is that his opinion is far more important than anyone else’s. As in, Trump sets priorities for his administration. It also sets what is not a priority.
“In the previous months Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her top priorities as a secretary for internal security: to prepare for new and different forms of Russian interference in the 2020 elections.
“President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to present him in front of the president …
“… Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump has still equated any public discussion about the malicious Russian election with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to a senior administration official, the Mr. Mulvaney said that “it was not an exceptional topic and should be kept below its level.” “
It’s amazing stuff. And he talks about how Trump’s inability to see the truth about what Russia did in 2016 seriously hinders our government’s efforts to combat what’s coming in November.
Even more worrying is that Trump has secured Putin – on two occasions! – is personally aware of his skepticism about Russia’s role in the last election. This is literally a dream scenario for the Russian president.