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Erin Burnett: How stupid does Trump think we are?

CNN's Erin Burnett discusses President Trump's attempt to walk back his comments about Russian interference in the 2016 election by saying he misspoke.

Posted: Jul 18, 2018 11:56 PM
Updated: Jul 18, 2018 11:56 PM

President Donald Trump appears to think we are all idiots.

He just tried to fix what could be the biggest crisis of his presidency -- and he failed disastrously.

Trump returned from his world tour to a country where the word "treason" was trending on Twitter, and where members of his own party were declaring on TV that he had betrayed the United States.

Hours earlier he'd left America and the rest of the world slack-jawed in astonishment at his fawning press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where at every turn, Trump seemed to take Putin's side and attack his own country, explaining that in their private meeting Putin had been "extremely strong and powerful" in denying Russia interfered in the 2016 election -- despite the conclusion of the US intelligence agencies that it had.

He said: "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."

When even his mouthpiece Fox News criticized Trump, it was time for action.

So the President convened a gaslighting session Tuesday with the media at the White House. Here he told his audience that they had not seen what they saw, had not correctly heard what he meant for them to hear, and that it was all one big misunderstanding. The Helsinki blowback was a silly mixup, Trump explained, reading from typewritten notes.

"In a key sentence in my remarks," Trump explained, "I said the world 'would' instead of 'wouldn't'. The sentence should have been "I don't see why... it wouldn't be Russia," he assured us. "Sort of a double negative."

Perhaps this was the first tactical operation by Trump's new communications director, Bill Shine. Claim it was a slip of the tongue, a grammatical misfire. Of course, Trump didn't go so far as to apologize. Instead, he said he "realized there is some need for clarification." So, when the Wall Street Journal called the Helsinki press conference "a personal and national embarrassment," when the former CIA director called it "treasonous," when a top Fox anchor called it "disgusting," he wanted us to know they had all been thrown off by one word.

Are we supposed to believe this nonsense? After he blamed the "stupidity" of the United States for causing poor relations with Russia, ignoring the fact that Russia invaded its neighbor, shot down a civilian airplane (four years ago today), helped a Syrian dictator who used chemical weapons and, according to a mountain of evidence, attacked American democracy.

But never mind all that. Trump thought his clever would/wouldn't explanation took care of his massive Helsinki problem. "So," he concluded to reporters, "you can put that in and I think that clarifies things pretty good by itself."

Please. Verbal dexterity is not this President's strong suit. But deceiving, misleading, gaslighting, are. This time the ploy collapsed, much like America's image since he took office.

What's more, even though it appeared that someone had typed up the script for him, Trump just had to ad-lib. So, even as he tried to reverse his disparagement of US intelligence ("I accept our intelligence community's conclusions that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place"), he couldn't stop there. "Could be other people also. There's a lot of people out there."

One message for the base, one message for the rest.

Anyone who listened to his Helsinki press conference -- in contrast to his closed-door meeting with Putin, where only translators heard what was said -- knows this clean-up effort is laughable.

Far from being an assertion of American dominance -- double-negative mistake or no double-negative mistake -- it showed us a Trump standing sheepishly, admiringly by a man his own director of national intelligence said is still attacking America's digital infrastructure. The President looked like a different person from the one we've seen. Gone was the swagger, the bone-crushing handshake, the willingness to offend. Trump appeared submissive, cowed.

When Putin described his preposterous offer of having Russia jointly investigate the Mueller probe indictments, Trump called it "an incredible offer, OK?"

Former US counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke said Trump is "acting like a controlled asset." And the respected former US ambassador to Russia, William Burns, called the press conference "the single most embarrassing performance by an American president on the world stage that I've ever seen."

Most of us are old enough to remember when the GOP was tough on Russia, strong on NATO. It was 2016.

And after the sordid Helsinki spectacle and the attacks against NATO allies, Republican leaders have decided now to criticize the President -- a bit. The question now is what they are going to do about him.

His European tour was destructive and dangerous. Putin will now feel much less restrained in his foreign adventurism. He knows Trump would be reluctant to stop him. Trump is already weakening the Western alliance, calling the European Union America's foe and Russia a "competitor," explaining that is "a compliment."

The problem here is not a grammatical faux pas. The problem is the President. And it is a national emergency.

Republicans can pretend they've been fooled by Trump's idiotic explanation and move on. Or they can take action. It's time to call in the translator who witnessed the Putin-Trump meeting to find out what exactly happened. It's time to protect the Mueller investigation with legislation. It's time to recognize that the man in Oval Office is a genuine threat to the country and the world.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
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