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“My people came to me — [DNI] Dan Coats came to me and some others — and 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 [Russia].” (— Donald Trump)

(scroll down for article)

— RECENT HEADLINES –
“Trump Prompts Extremely Divisive NATO Summit, Leaves Members Stunned: Demands Increased Spending, Lies About Getting It, Floats U.S. Withdrawal if He Doesn’t Get It, Late for a Mtg., Lies About Germany’s Level of Dependence on Russian Energy, Whines About Unfair U.S. Treatment” (7/11/2018)
“Trump Continues Europe Trip w/ London Visit: Threatens PM Theresa May w/ Lockout From U.S. Trade Deals if She Does ‘Soft’ Brexit; Endorses and Praises May’s Political Party Archrival” (7/12/2018)
“Trump Says U.S. to Remain in NATO: This Is News Because It Wasn’t Supposed to Be News” (7/12/2018)
“Trump Tells U.K. Media: His Poll Numbers Are Better Than Lincoln’s Were; PM Theresa May Is Doing a Poor Job; She Didn’t Take His Advice on Brexit; Her Political Rival Would Make a ‘Great’ PM” (7/12/2018)
“Evidence Is Pointing Toward Russian Interference in Brexit Vote Campaign, to Help Pass It” (7/12/2018)
“Peter Strozk Testifies Before House for 10 Hrs.: Stands Tall; Explains He could Have Leaked Existence of Early FBI Russia Investigation if He Were Prone to Tanking Trump, But Never Did; GOP Members Embarrass Selves w/ Blatant Incivility, Ignorance, Are Surprised by Strozk’s Credibility” (7/12/2018)
“Special Counsel Mueller Indicts 12 Russian GRU Military Officers for Election Interference” (7/13/2018)
“Trump Reverses PM May Criticism When Face-to-Face, Calls Taped Interview ‘fake news’” (7/13/2018)
“Anti-Trump ‘Baby Balloon’ Protests Set Records for Size of Protest Turnouts in U.K.” (7/13/2018)
“Per Indictments, Russians Began Hacking DNC/Dems. Hrs. After Trump’s Famous 7/27/16 Rally Request: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you can find the 30,000 [HRC] emails that are missing’” (7/13/2018)
“DAG Rosenstein Seems to Hint at Coming Major Development in Special Counsel Case” (7/13/2018)
“Mark Meadows, Other House Republicans, Floating, Threatening DAG Impeachment” (7/13/2018)
“Trump Spends 2 Days at Scotland Trump-Owned Golf Course; Some Suspect ‘Infomercial’” (7/14/2018)
“Trump Blames Obama for Russian Attacks on U.S. Elections, ‘on [Obama’s] watch’” (7/14/2018)
“Trump’s Brexit Advice to U.K. PM Theresa May Was to Sue EU: ‘She didn’t listen to me’” (7/15/2018)
“Russian Operative Maria Butina, 29, w/ Close Ties to Russian FSB, Arrested in D.C.” (7/15/2018)
“Trump Arrives in Helsinki, Finland, for Summit w/ Russian President Vladimir Putin” (7/15/2018)
“Trump, Putin Have Private Meeting, With Only Principals and Interpreters Present” (7/16/2018)
“Trump-Putin Press Conference: DJT Raises Lame HRC Email Conspiracy Theories, Denounces Mueller Probe ‘hurting our country,’ Denies Collusion, Disbelieves U.S. Intelligence, Believes Putin Denials of Russian Election Interference, Says, ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia]’” (7/16/2018)
“Outrage From Both Parties Erupts Over Trump’s Press Conference Pandering to Putin; Even Top GOP Trump Supporters, Apologists, Advisers Are Saying He Must Fix It” (7/16/2018)
“Trump Took 27 Hrs. to Make Historically Lame Walk-Back, Changed ‘I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia]’ to ‘… wouldn’t be [Russia]’; Says It Was ‘Sort of a double negative … I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself’; Ignores His Other Outrageous Putin Pandering” (7/17/2018)
“Maria Butina Criminally Indicted for Conspiracy as a Russian Federation Agent” (7/17/2018)
“Russia Wants ‘Global Security’ Plans Implemented That Trump, Putin Secretly Negotiated” (7/17/2018)
“Trump Walks Back His Walk-Back: Says He Doesn’t Believe Russia Is Still Interfering” (7/18/2018)
“Trump Doesn’t Immediately Disavow Putin Offer Allowing Russia to Question Former U.S. Amb. to Russia, 10 Other Americans, Calls It ‘an incredible offer’; Trump Friends and Foes Outraged” (7/18/2018)
“Trump Was Advised on 1/6/17 That Putin Definitively Ordered U.S. Election Hacking and Cyberattack; Though Admitting Then He Was Convinced, Trump Has Been Denying It Ever Since” (7/18/2018)
“Top Admin. Leaders Still Don’t Know What Trump Negotiated w/ Putin in Secret” (7/19/2018)
“In Apparent Pushback to DNI Dan Coates’ Defense of U.S. Intelligence Community, Trump Abruptly Announces Putin Invite to D.C. in Fall; Top Aides Caught Off-Guard; GOP Worried” (7/19/2018)
“DNI Dan Coates Contradicts Trump Again, Says Russians Definitely Hacked U.S. Election, Defends IC Again, Is Visibly Shocked by (Then Mocks) Trump’s Invite to Putin for Fall D.C. Meeting” (7/19/2018)
“WH Takes 3 Days to Decline Putin’s ‘proposal made in sincerity’ to Have Russia Interrogate Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, 10 Other Americans; Country Aghast That WH Even Considered It” (7/19/2018)
“Senate Passes Resolution 98-0 Denouncing Idea of Russia Interrogating U.S. Citizens” (7/19/2018)
“Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen: Russia Did Not Influence Election to Favor Trump” (7/19/2018)

__________



The list of headlines is exceptionally long this week. To use a Trumpian superlative, it’s the longest headline list in the history of GraniteWord.com — and Time magazine. (And the president’s poll numbers are better than Lincoln’s were.) With Donald’s European holiday and accompanying reprehensible behavior — which descended below even the usual Trump low bar — there was a lot to track in the past seven days. Some pundits, scholars, and intellectual elites are speculating that Mr. Trump’s increasingly errant conduct is a function of the Special Counsel walls closing in.

Helsinki

“No puppet. No puppet. … You’re the puppet!”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., 2016 presidential candidate; 3rd presidential debate; Thomas and Mack Center, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; 10/19/2016.) (after Trump said Putin has no respect for her, Hillary Clinton responded, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” prompting Trump’s response above)

“My people came to me — [DNI] Dan Coats came to me and some others — and 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 [Russia]. …

“I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. …

“If [Putin had compromising material on me], it would have been out long ago. … [Mueller’s investigation is] a total witch hunt. …

“Actually, I called [Mr. Putin] a competitor, and a good competitor he is. And I think the word competitor is a compliment. …

“I think that the [Special Counsel’s] probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept [America and Russia] apart, it’s kept us separated. …

“And what [President Putin] did do is an incredible offer: he offered to have [Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s] people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 [indicted Russians, in exchange for questioning our former U.S. ambassador to Russia and 10 other Americans]. I think that’s an incredible offer.”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; post-summit Trump-Putin press conference; Helsinki, Finland; 7/16/2018.)

Who’s your puppet (and your daddy)?

The world — including United States Democrats, Republicans, and anyone else who has at least a passing concern about government — was flabbergasted by Donald Trump’s blatant, obsequious pandering to Russian President Vladimir Putin at their July 16 post-summit joint press conference in Helsinki. By almost all accounts, Trump looked weak and timid next to the Russian strongman. Many on both sides of the aisle in Congress believed Trump was exuding the suspicious — some might say hinky — air of a person compromised by Putin, of someone beholden to an enemy of America for some unknown reason.



Brussels

The Hinky in Helsinki was the disastrous culmination of President Trump’s latest European vacation. It began with a NATO summit that was supposed to be a sort of renewal of marital vows. It was supposed to be Donald declaring in front of friends and family and the world, “After 69 years of wedded bliss, and all that we’ve been through together, I’d do it again. I wouldn’t change a thing.” Then the guests would applaud.

Instead, Trump publicly berated his 28 NATO spouses for their apparent inability to pull their own financial weight and for taking advantage of him in the marriage. He humiliated his German wife for her profligate spending, buying “50, 60, or even I’ve heard numbers of 70 percent of their energy” from Russia, though the actual percentage is 8 or 9. He accused her of being “totally controlled by Russia.” Donald hinted that he might divorce his 28 mates if they don’t start paying more of the family bills.

“NATO’s European leaders were left reeling after one of the most divisive summits in the organization’s 69-year history, at which Donald Trump set a January deadline for them to increase defense spending and hinted that the U.S. might quit the alliance if they failed to meet it. While other NATO members treated his warnings as a bluff, they left the Brussels summit stunned at the end of two days of mayhem, almost all of it orchestrated by Trump.

“In the final hours he again reduced the 29-member organization, the most powerful military coalition in the world, to chaos. He turned up late for a meeting, ignored the issues on the table, demanded fresh talks, and secured an emergency discussion on spending. Afterwards, at a hastily convened press conference, Trump claimed he had emerged victorious, saying European leaders had caved in to his demands – something both the French and Germans later denied.”

(MacAskill, Ewan; “Trump Claims Victory as NATO Summit Descends Into Mayhem”; The Guardian; 7/12/2018.)

London

Then it was on to London — to insult and abuse his British NATO wife individually. He arrived while Prime Minister Theresa May was in the midst of trying to negotiate her country’s messy divorce from the European Union, to see who gets the kids and the dog. (British citizens chose to leave the EU in a 2016 vote aka Brexit.) May wants Britain to maintain some sort of civil relationship with its former partner. After all, they had many good years together, and they did once love each other. Donald prefers going in for the kill, past relationship be damned — just like in his marital dissolutions.

President Trump supports a hard Brexit: no immigration, no trade deals, no nothin’. A total break.

[FUN FACT]: Vladimir Putin also supports a hard Brexit (not to mention the breakup of the entire EU). In fact, evidence has surfaced this week of likely Russian interference in the original 2016 British referendum, to help the “Leave” campaign defeat the “Stay” vote.

[RELATED FUN FACT]: Donald Trump carries serious water for Vladimir Putin. We don’t yet know why.

Theresa May is angling for a soft Brexit, one that will maintain some of the agreements and business relationships Britain enjoyed under EU membership. She is also struggling to maintain support for her leadership. In Britain’s parliamentary system, the prime minister can be forced out if she loses the confidence of her party.

Donald Trump is supposed to represent the most trusted, supportive ally the United Kingdom has. World leaders are not supposed to get all up in their allies’ business. But if you’re Theresa May, and Trump doesn’t like what you’re doing, don’t depend on The Donald to be a character witness:

“President Trump … in a remarkable breach of protocol, publicly undercut[ ] Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain in an interview published hours after landing in her country. In the interview with The Sun, Mr. Trump second-guessed Mrs. May’s handling of the main issue on her plate: how Britain should cut ties to the European Union. He cast doubt on whether he was willing to negotiate a new trade deal between Britain and the United States, and praised Mrs. May’s Conservative Party rival, Boris Johnson, as a potentially great prime minister.”

(Castle, Stephen & Davis, Julie Hirschfeld; “As May’s Government Teeters Over Brexit, Trump Gives It a Shove”; The New York Times; 7/12/2018.)

“Well, I think the deal that she is striking is not what the people voted on. … If they do a deal like [soft Brexit], we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill [any U.S.-U.K. trade] deal. … I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. …

“Well, I am not pitting one against the other. I’m just saying I think [Boris Johnson] would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes and I think he’s got the right attitude. …

“No, no, no, no. I never said [Theresa May is ‘a bossy schoolteacher’]. … The Washington Post is totally fake. They are just a lobbyist for Amazon. …

“I think what has happened to Europe is a shame. Allowing the immigration. … I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was, and I don’t mean that in a positive way. … I think you are losing your culture. …

“You have a [Muslim] mayor who has done a terrible job in London. … I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism. I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; as cited in Dunn, Tom Newton; “Trump’s Brexit Blast: Donald Trump told Theresa May how to do Brexit ‘but she wrecked it’ – and says the U.S. trade deal is off”; The Sun, a News U.K. Company; 7/13/2018.)

Media outlets later reported what our president’s Brexit advice was to Prime Minister Theresa May (which she didn’t take): sue the European Union.

Is that classic Trump or what?

Helsinki

“I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade.”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; CBS News’ Face the Nation; 7/15/2018.)

Then it was on to Helsinki, back to where this story began.

Presidents Trump and Putin began their summit with a two-hour-plus private meeting — just the principals and each man’s interpreter (and the hidden Russian microphones). The next day, Russian diplomats and military officials were publicly expressing their desire to get on with the global security agreements made in secret between Don and Vlad.

Global security agreements!? Three days later, still no one in the White House, the U.S. military, nor our intelligence community knew what was said in that meeting.

After a second meeting, with the U.S. and Russian diplomatic teams in attendance, Trump and Putin held a joint press conference:

“President Trump handed Russian President Vladimir Putin an unalloyed diplomatic triumph during their summit here Monday as he refused to support the collective conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump’s warm rhetorical embrace of Putin, who he said had given him an ‘extremely strong and powerful’ denial that Russia assaulted U.S. democracy, … sparked trepidation and horror among many in Washington and around the globe.

“Trump would not challenge Putin’s claim that the Russian government played no role in trying to sabotage the U.S. election, despite the Justice Department’s indictments Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officers. … Trump went on to condemn the expansive federal investigation of Russian interference as ‘a disaster for our country’ and ‘a total witch hunt,’ arguing that the probe, along with ‘foolish’ American policies, had severely impaired relations between the two countries.”

(Rucker, Philip & Troianovski, Anton & Kim, Seung Min; “Trump Hands Putin a Diplomatic Triumph by Casting Doubt on U.S. Intelligence Agencies”; The Washington Post; 7/16/2018.)

With his fawning press conference performance, Donald Trump apparently went too far even for his die-hard supporters in the Republican establishment:

“President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately.”

(Gingrich, Newt, R-Ga., 2012 presidential primary candidate, former U.S. House speaker, prominent GOP Trump apologist; Twitter post; 7/16/2018.)

Of course, the lukewarm GOP supporters were no less alarmed:

“A wave of condemnation immediately followed, with lawmakers calling Republican Trump ‘weak’ and ‘cowardly,’ while Senator John McCain [R-Ariz.] said the summit was ‘a tragic mistake.’”

(Cowan, Richard & Becker, Amanda; “U.S. Lawmakers Slam Trump as ‘Weak’ in Russia Summit; Some Push New Sanctions”; Reuters; 7/16/2018.)

And I don’t have to tell you how his non-Republican critics saw it. Ahh, I can’t resist:

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

(Brennan, John, I-N.J., former [Obama] CIA director; Twitter post; 7/16/2018.)

This was a damn CIA director, not someone normally prone to hyperbole. In fact, many thoughtful, non-hyperbolic diplomatic and military experts floated the word treasonous for the first time. Many of these were Republicans, not just independents like Brennan. I know, I know: treason technically involves only traitorous behavior during time of war. But we all heard what these speakers were getting at. Moreover, some experts believe we are involved in war — cyberwar — with the Russian Federation. So, there.

At minimum, Trump’s press conference statements have caused many serious people to consider the strong possibility that Putin has somehow compromised the president of the United States. This includes many Republican and independent leaders and pundits who heretofore had dismissed that idea out of hand.

Our (arguably) most dangerous global adversary literally attacked our country in 2016, to alter the outcome of our presidential election. President Trump, on the world stage, standing next to the kleptocratic, murdering dictator who ordered that attack, believed Putin’s denials over the universally accepted determinations of all U.S. intelligence organizations. Why would he do that?

Walk-Back

After 27 hours of harsh criticism and outrage over Trump’s Helsinki performance, he made a White House hostage video:

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place – could be other people also. A lot of people out there. … I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ … The sentence should have been ‘I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t,’ or ‘why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things.”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; White House televised statement; 7/17/2018.)

Walk-Back of the Walk-Back

“Insult, grudging apology [with a wink and a nod to original insult], double down. Repeat.”

(Fisher, Marc; “How Trump Retreats: Grudging Apologies, Plus a Wink and a Nod to the Original Insult”; The Washington Post; 7/17/2018.)

Trump is getting predictable. After he screws up so badly that he’s forced to fix it, he makes a mechanical, qualified walk-back. He speaks to each side of the issue so both his critics and supporters can take away what they want to hear. His corrections or apologies are always forced, canned, read from a script, while his qualifications are always off-the-cuff, ad-libbed, and projected with an invisible wink to supporters indicating, “I didn’t really mean that walk-back I just did.”

Then the next day, Donald follows the qualified walk-back with a doubling-down on what he said in the first place, that made his aides force him to walk back. Think Charlottesville: he panders to Nazis, is forced to “correct” himself, then panders back harder:

“President Trump on Wednesday quickly resumed his full-throated defense of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin after attempting to walk back the most controversial moment from their joint press conference, once again calling the summit a success and blasting his critics as ‘haters’ with ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome.’ …

“Trump addressed the issues again later in the day during a Cabinet meeting. He denied Russia is still targeting the U.S., despite intelligence warnings to the contrary. He also said, ‘There’s been no president ever as tough as I have been on Russia.’ … The return to Trump’s typical combative tone followed his attempt Tuesday to walk back a line from their press conference that had drawn harsh bipartisan criticism, acting under pressure to calm the controversy.”

(Singman, Brooke; “Trump Resumes Defense of Putin Summit After Walk-Back, Rips ‘Haters’ With ‘[Trump] Derangement Syndrome’”; FoxNews.com; 7/18/2018.)

Even Fox News was shocked that Donald, once again, in the double-down phase, contrary to all of his own U.S. intelligence agencies, declared that the Russians are not currently trying to influence our elections.

But let’s let Trump be Trump:

“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come! … Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”

(Trump, Donald, R-N.Y., U.S. president; Twitter post; 7/18/2018.)

The president has Trump Derangement Syndrome backwards: It’s the leader of the free world who has it.

And that’s how Donald spent his European summer vacation. ■

______________________________________________________
Trump Corruption Chronicles — We Must Never Forget