Russian Media Reporting on President Trump’s Russia Scandal
By Anna Viver
The Russian media establishment’s narrative on the U.S. political predicament surrounding the Russia-tinged scandals of the Trump administration may be largely unknown to consumers of Western media. Coincidentally, it happens to fall closely in line with the narratives pushed by President Donald Trump himself and some voices in right-wing U.S. media: namely, that the Democrats are pursuing a “witch hunt” against Trump and have been fabricating these allegations because they lost the 2016 presidential election.
Russian news stories also commonly call allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, “ridiculous.” In the “60 Minutes” talk show broadcast on the Russia 24 TV channel, the program hosts invited Russian lawmakers, journalists, and political analysts to comment on the scandal surrounding the Russian diplomatic delegation’s meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office and reflect on the American leader’s future and U.S.-Russia relations. In tune with other relevant media commentary, the guests on the show blamed Democrats for their inability to move on and accept political defeat, and portrayed Trump’s political opponents as “election losers” who first “foolishly let victory slip away,” and then “jumped at the opportunity” of a false scandal to discredit the president. The Russian media narrative echoes the nationalist/isolationist stream in U.S. media as well: both call for the U.S. to abandon active international intervention and its occasional mantle of “the world’s policeman.”
The Russian media holds the Democrats responsible for being irrational in blocking Trump’s every attempt to improve relations and cooperation with the Kremlin. Speaking on the “60 minutes” program, Nezavisimaya Gazeta Editor in Chief Konstantin Remchukov, for example, defended Trump following the revelation that Trump had shared sensitive intelligence on the Islamic State with Russia’s delegation in the Oval Office meeting. Rather than a scandal, he saw Russia-U.S. intelligence sharing as appropriate in the face of a common threat, and noted that such high level meetings during the Cold War were perceived as “normal” and even “necessary.” Even prominent Russian opposition reporter Oleg Kashin downplayed the Oval Office scandal, joking that one was more likely to find a leftover McDonald’s burger in Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s desk drawer than some “scary buttons” controlling the U.S. political system.
The Russian narrative on the Trump administration is that it is a capable, but politically inexperienced team led by a president “absurdly prone to exposing himself to trouble” with daily gaffes. “Stubborn Trump,” as he is seen, refuses to build a dialogue with the opposition and does “everything possible” to give “more ammunition to the supporters of his impeachment.”
On the possibility of Trump being impeached, the Russian media is certainly engaged, but still tentative, with some commentators believing that impeachment is likely, while others are optimistic that Trump’s chances of finishing his term “look pretty good” despite the “American media hysteria.”
Anna Viver is a media analyst at Exovera