I happily acknowledge that Trump has made some good policy decisions so far during his presidency. Obviously, his efforts to get the economy moving again have been helpful. I think his efforts with North Korea have been laudable though, of course, we still need to see what comes of it. I think his Supreme Court nominations have been excellent, and he has certainly been a friend to the pro-life movement on abortion. Even on Russia, he took action in Syria and seemed to at least talk a harder line than Obama. Obama was a disaster on Russia. His weakness in the face of Russian aggression in the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria were astonishing and inexcusable for an American president.
But, the image of President Trump standing next to Vladimir Putin and taking his word on the question of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election over that of the American intelligence community and the results of a Congressional investigation will have far-reaching consequences, and none of them positive. Though Obama’s actual policy toward Russia was far more damaging in reality, and his hot mic gaffe nearly as humiliating as Trump’s open mic statements, Trump’s news conference may be far more damaging in reputation. Unfortunately, Obama could count on the press to give him a pass and on the Democrats to provide cover, and they both came through for him. Fortunately, Trump cannot count on either. Even Fox News has been openly critical of Trump’s news conference and, at least as far as I can tell, there are no Republicans even pretending to make excuses for Trump. The condemnations have been quick, blunt, and on target.
The evidence in clear: Russia attempted to influence the presidential election of 2016. Apparently, everybody except Trump knows that. The Obama administration knew it at least by the summer of 2016 and did nothing, probably because they couldn’t imagine Trump winning. The evidence also seems to be clear that no one in the Trump campaign, at least not anyone in any significant position of influence, colluded with the Russians in their attempt to influence the election. Most experts conclude that Russia’s efforts didn’t impact the results. There are lots of reasons Clinton lost, but the Russians weren’t one of them.
Still, Trump, rather keeping his mouth shut and allowing the investigation to exonerate him and his campaign, has felt impelled to speak to the matter again and again and in a way that a reasonable person might conclude he either had something to hide or was eager to manipulate the investigation to his benefit. It doesn’t take much for Trump to come across as a pretty sleazy guy, mostly because he’s a pretty sleazy guy.
And now, this.
What will come of it all is still up in the air. The executive branch of the government is the one that sets foreign policy. Mike Pompeo, Jim Mattis, and John Bolton are nobody’s idiots, least of all Putin’s. If their take on Russia can sway the administration’s policy, there’s still hope. Trump’s massively obtuse misstep may even inspire a harder line than might otherwise have been possible, if only to prove the point that U. S. policy toward Russia isn’t a bust.
But, regardless of what happens in the future, this will likely be a moment for which Trump is remembered. It doesn’t bode well for the Republicans in the mid-terms and may even impact the vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Few politicians will want to be seen as siding with a president who throws his own country under the bus.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.