Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “carried a message from world powers to Moscow on Tuesday denouncing Russian support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad,” President Trump would not respond when asked if his views on Russian President Vladimir Putin have changed.
Putin is standing by Assad after Assad attacked his own people in a horrific gas attack, yet Trump still would not respond to question about whether his view has changed about Putin, according a White House pool report sent to PoliticusUSA.
During a meeting with CEOs and Trump administration members in the State Department Library, Trump ignored the question about his views on Putin. Trump has defended Putin, even when it was pointed out to him that Putin is widely thought to kill journalists.
Trump dismissed that accusation against the dictator, and doubled down later saying it was a “great honor” to be praised by Putin. When George Stephanopoulos pointed out in December of 2016 that Putin backs our adversaries like Assad, backs Iran, and invades Ukraine, Trump wasn’t bothered.
Trump replied then, “I have been an extremely successful dealmaker. That’s what I’ve done over years. And I know people, because deals are people. And I think I’ll get along very well, for the good of our country, for the good of our country. This is what I want. Make America great again.”
Trump displayed a naivete and ignorance so stunning as to be questionable when he declared getting along with Russia a good thing, “So if Putin respects me and if Putin wants to call me brilliant and other things that he said which were, frankly, very nice, I’ll accept that and I’ll accept that on behalf of our country, because if we get along well with Russia, that’s a positive thing, George, not a negative thing.”
Trump had long ago been marked as an easy target for the Kremlin due to his need for praise.
Putin is also claiming, without evidence, “Russia has information that the U.S. plans to undertake more airstrikes in Syria — and predicted there would be faked chemical weapons operations inside the country.”
So basically Putin is blaming Trump for making up fake news when news hits again that Syria attacked its own people, “We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared … in other parts of Syria including in the southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”
That’s golden, because Putin uses the exact argument that Trump used against President Obama. Evidence he has but won’t share.
There are also reports that Russia knew about the attacks ahead of time given that they had advisers at the Syrian airfield, but the Trump White House has pushed back on that idea.
Another Putin excuse for Assad, “Russia’s defence ministry has argued that Syrian planes were destroying chemical weapons, not deploying them, and said the airstrikes targeted a rebel storage depot for toxins. That claim has been widely dismissed as implausible by experts.”
The problems with Putin’s style of brutal dictatorship were widely established long before Trump became president. But he didn’t care because Putin flattered him. Now Trump is caught in between his own narratives, on the one hand he claims to care about babies being killed (he sadly added to that by killing four children with his strikes), but he can’t quite get to admitting that he was wrong about Putin.
President Trump is under FBI investigation for his relationship with the Kremlin, specifically as it relates to exceptional contact during the election when Putin was trying to harm Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump win. The Trump transition team is also under investigation, and already one person has been fired after lying about Russian contacts and another has had to step aside from overseeing an investigation. Make that two former Trump transition team members who have had to step aside from overseeing investigations into Trump’s Russian connections.
This could explain why Trump can’t come out and say what is obvious to everyone else in the world about Putin’s defense of Assad.
So Trump has his Secretary of State saying one thing to Moscow, while Trump won’t even voice the same sentiment when asked if his views have changed. But this is to be expected. We’ve now been given several different reasons for Trump’s attack on Syria and been told there is no plan for further attacks this was just an emotional decision, there is a plan, this won’t be tolerated, (this will be tolerated but Trump was upset), this was a one-off…
And on and on it goes, but Trump has not yet managed to say the words he should have been able to say during the campaign.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.