Continuing his unblemished record of refusing to criticize Vladimir Putin in public, Trump called the Russia president Tuesday to congratulate him on winning a sham, deeply undemocratic election. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) once “joked” that two Americans were on Putin’s payroll: Trump and Orange County Republican Dana Rohrabacher.
Judging by the overly friendly call Trump made to Putin, McCarthy’s comment looks less like a joke and more like reality.
Trump’s latest bout of Moscow groveling came the same day that bipartisan members of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned that Russia may try to attack America’s midterm elections in November.
It was yet another instance when Trump, accused of colluding with Russians in 2016, bent to Putin while refusing to stand up to him on behalf of America.
“We had a very good call,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, describing the collegial phone conversation with the Russian leader.
The Trump-Putin call occurred at almost the same moment intelligence committee members addressed reporters on Capitol Hill. They stressed the need for election reform, in part to keep Russia from once again undermining American ballots.
The committee recommended steps states take immediately to better “defend against a hostile nation-state who may seek to undermine our democracy.”
It also concluded that “Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 general election, the Homeland Security Department has said, and separately launched a social media blitz aimed at inflaming social tensions and sowing confusion,” CNBC noted.
Rohrabacher bristled at the notion that Russia was behind election interference, making comments to undermine U.S. intelligence agencies and even going so far as spreading misinformation when 13 Russian agents were indicted by Mueller’s investigation.
Today, the threat still lingers.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats recently announced, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts (in the 2016 election) as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
Around the same time, Trump’s then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, echoed the dire warning about 2018 elections, telling Fox News, “I think it’s important we just continue to say to Russia, look, you think we don’t see what you’re doing. We do see it, and you need to stop.”
But chatting up Putin on Tuesday, Trump wouldn’t even raise the topic with the Russian authoritarian.
Not only did Trump praise Putin for winning a rubber-stamp re-election, but he did so in the wake of Putin and Russia being accused of approving a military-grade nerve gas attack on private citizens in England.
The targeted victims were 66-year-old Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, who remain comatose. Skripal once served as a Russian spy. In total, more than 30 people were exposed during the brazen nerve gas attack.
“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter — and for threatening the lives of other British citizens,” British Prime Minister Theresa May announced.
Trump, too busy getting chummy with Putin on the phone, didn’t have time to complain.