Intel chief: Don't know what happened in Trump-Putin meeting

The panel weighs in on comments by the Director of National Intelligence on Russian interference.

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 12:02 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2018 12:19 PM

There will be verdicts, votes -- and now Vlad? And it'll all end with a victory parade of sorts. This fall is going to be *lit* in Washington.

If you thought that the confluence of the US indicting Russian agents just before Trump's alone time with Russian President Vladimir Putin and subsequent cowed press conference was awkward, your head is going to spin in a few months, when special counsel Robert Mueller prosecutes former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then voters head to polls.

Adding to this brew, the White House has now reportedly invited Putin to Washington for another summit this fall and work on issues they discussed in private in Helsinki this week. Time and date TBD. (And no word yet on whether Putin has accepted).

While Trump has since modulated the way he equated Putin's "who, us?" denials of election interference with the united allegations of the US intelligence community, he has never completely bought into the idea of Russia as a foe. He even entertained the idea of letting Russians interrogate a former US ambassador to Russia.

The resulting outcry and fracture of his own party at his actions did not have the effect of burning Trump's fingers, but rather led him to invite Putin back for more.

But what are they thinking at the White House? Why put Trump and Putin in the same place so soon after the legitimate chaos caused by the one this week? That remains to be explained or comprehended.

Here are some possibilities:

Perhaps It's an attempt to zig when everyone expects a zag. Don't run away, but rather run into storm of bipartisan criticism (and it has been a storm) of Trump's last, deeply flawed appearance with Putin. Even Trump's own intelligence chief said Tuesday he didn't know what happened behind closed doors in Helsinki with the two men and their translators. The Russians seem to think there was some kind of military deal struck. Trump hasn't talked about it.

Maybe they think the best way for Trump to undo the damage from his first meeting is to replace it with a stronger second summit.

Perhaps it's just an old-fashioned attempt to change the subject. Will news coverage suddenly shift from the debacle in Helsinki and its reverberations to what will happen this fall? It seems more likely that this new development, if Putin accepts, will keep the story in the headlines even longer.

It could also -- and this is the most wily and fanciful possible reason of all -- be that Trump sees value in the blanket of critique he's faced from officials.

Whether Republican lawmakers continue to break with the President remains to be seen. Republican voters, meanwhile, are mostly still with him. Just 21% said they disapproved of his performance at the summit, compared to 83% of Democrats and 53% of independents, in a new CBS News poll.

The Republican strategist Josh Holmes, who has said the entire summit fiasco was handled poorly, has also recently said Trump motivates his base by keeping the Russia investigation in the news.

"What the President is doing by continuing to discuss the investigation [into allegations of collusion between his campaign and Russia] and the quote-unquote 'witch hunt,' particularly on primetime Fox [News], is doing more to mobilize base voters than any legislative issue we've seen," Holmes told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

It's hard to believe any benefit from keeping the Russia investigation in the news extends to the incredible backlash Trump has seen from lawmakers in his own party to his equivocations with Putin on the issue of Russian 2016 election interference.

But there will be ample opportunities for Trump to talk about both Putin and the investigation.

The calendar was already full with Manafort's two trials (yes, two!) which are slated to begin July 25 and September 17.

Then there's Midterm Election Day, on November 6.

For a break from Russia, there will also be a confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh before Election Day (Republicans want him confirmed before then) and, a few days after the election, the grand military parade Trump ordered up after being jealous of the one he saw in France.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Benton140
Sharkey70
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

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Mobile2341123
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