President Donald Trump met with Russian leader Vladimir Putin today, and as we expected, the meeting immediately ignited a firestorm of drama. There is bipartisan satisfaction and dissatisfaction from a variety of Republican and Democratic leaders about topics brought up during the meeting; here’s a few highlights to help you understand what happened.
• The President is facing “bipartisan criticism” over what some perceive to be a failed opportunity to confront Putin publicly on election meddling. This mostly stems from the fact that Trump seemed to be a gracious host to the Russian leader, even going as far as to say the public wants to “see them get along.”
• Trump also seemed to defend Putin from hecklers and questions at several points. It’s a perplexing and surprising move given the fact that 12 Russians were just indicted for allegedly hacking Hillary Clinton’s email server back in 2016. However, President Trump has never shown any desire to go with the status quo, and this may be just another sign of him doing things his own way.
• Putin also had plenty to say to the public. As expected, the Kremlin deftly dodged several questions about elections meddling, instead reverting to his own personal opinion: “Yes, I did,” he replied, indicating that he wanted Trump to win the election.
• When journalists asked him to explain why, he cited Trump’s desire to bring the “U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
• Putin also called the idea of collusion “nonsense,” stating that he “didn’t know the president” at the time and so there was “no one to collude with.” He also clarified that there was “no collusion with the campaign.”
• Trump quickly agreed, citing the fact that he “ran a brilliant campaign,” as the driving force behind his successful presidency.
• House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., shared his dismay shortly afterward, stating that “Russia is not our ally.” He also took offense to the Kremlin’s denial of interference. “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election,” he said, reminding leaders that he “continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world” even now.
• Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was even more harsh in his response. He called Trump “not only unable, but unwilling” to “stand up to the Kremlin.” He also foolishly accused our President of “speaking from the same script,” calling it “a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency.”
• But Trump was fast to clarify his meaning and point out why what people were accusing him of was ridiculous. “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!”
• Anyone who has lived through the Cold War knows that Russia is a formidable foe. When visiting one’s enemies in the “Motherland,” perhaps it is best not to anger that foe and incite a war. Trump’s diffusion of a potentially dangerous situation may seem strange, but it’s actually very crafty, especially considering that he was away from home soil.
• It’s also important to remember that the Helsinki summit isn’t the end of relations or discussions – or even attempts to stand up to Russia. Instead, it’s the start of a diplomatic attempt to mend the relationship while protecting our Homeland and all American people. Just because Trump played the diplomat today, doesn’t mean he won’t play the fierce, stand-his-ground commander tomorrow when he’s in the right position.