Trump returned to Twitter to defend his meeting with Putin. It didn’t go well.
If he thought he was clarifying himself, he didn’t.
President Trump is back from the G20 and back on Twitter. In a stream of tweets Sunday morning, he attempted to clarify his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he raised more questions than he answered and directly contradicted his own spokespeople.
First, Trump claimed that he did press Putin about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — “meddling” as Trump called it — but he stopped short of addressing whether he accepted Putin’s denial.
The problem with Trump claiming he already gave his opinion is that his “opinion” is self-contradictory. Indeed, according to Trump’s own words, he holds every possible opinion about Russia’s interference: He thinks it’s Russia, he thinks it could’ve been other countries, and he thinks “nobody really knows.”
The tweet also doesn’t clear up the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that Trump accepted Putin’s assertions that Russian did not interfere and that he even downplayed what U.S. intelligence has concluded to the contrary. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hadn’t contradicted that claim either, suggesting Trump was simply focused on how we “move forward.”
Trump’s Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, did his best to defend his boss on Fox News Sunday with regards to whether he bought was Putin was selling. “The President absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin,” Priebus explained, suggesting that Trump did spend an “extensive portion of the meeting” pushing Putin on the matter. But then, Trump “moved on to other topics.”
But Priebus then proceeded to echo Trump’s wishy-washy statements on the matter. “He’s answered this question many times. He’s said they probably meddled in the election. They did meddle in the election,” he started, but then insisted that it’s an “absolute fact” that other countries have meddled as well. “China has. North Korea has. And they have consistently over many, many years.” Of course, there has been no concrete evidence provided to the public that either country played a significant role in interfering with the 2016 election, whereas Russia was clearly implicated in the hacking and Wikileaks dumps that greatly impacted the campaigns.
When host Chris Wallace pressed Priebus about another of Trump’s Sunday-morning tweets that “now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia,” Priebus described Russia’s interference in the election as a mere “disagreement.”
In Trump’s other tweets, he said that not only does he want the U.S. and Russia to move forward, but he confirmed reports that the two discussed working on cybersecurity issues together.
Many on Twitter were quick to respond with ridicule to the idea that the U.S. should work with Russia on cybersecurity when Russia is, in fact, one of the biggest threats to U.S. cybersecurity.
Before he was done tweeting, Trump also claimed that sanctions were not discussed at his meeting with Putin.
This seems to directly contradict Tillerson’s implication Friday that the two did discuss sanctions, but that “the two presidents, I think, rightly focused on: How do we move forward?”
All in all, Trump’s tweets only added to the confusion about what was discussed at the meeting with Putin. Perhaps they could be described as representing Trump’s desire to forgive and forget Russia’s interference, but that would require confirmation that Trump actually agrees with the fact that Russian interfered. For now, his official stance seems still to be that “nobody really knows.”