On Politics: A meeting of the minds
Ever since Wikileaks began releasing emails and other data hacked from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 presidential election, Democrats have been red in the face. Among other things the documentation showed that the DNC privately favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The disclosure resulted in the resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and some angst among backers of Bernie Sanders.
When the election results rolled in, left-wingers and the media couldn’t believe or accept Trump’s victory. Someone in the Obama Administration illegally allowed release of metadata that revealed the existence (but not the content) of conversations in December 2016 between General Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador. Flynn was President-elect Trump’s nominee for national security advisor.
Flynn resigned but Obama’s outgoing director of national intelligence, James Clapper, issued a statement in January which the media and others misconstrued to mean that 17 U.S. intelligence agencies had studied the Wikileaks documents and concluded that Russia “interfered” with the 2016 election.
That statement fueled fire and brimstone breathing Democrats, together with media spoiling for a story, to morph Clapper’s utterance into a narrative about Trump’s “collusion” with the Russians to steal the Election. Some decorum-free, Democratic congressional members began threatening “impeachment”.
Fast forward to last week when the New York Times issued a somewhat belated correction to the effect that Clapper’s statement reflected the analysis of only three intelligence agencies —Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Security Agency. The Associated Press repeated the correction the next day.
No one paid any attention to the correction because the world was focused on Trump’s visit to Poland, followed by the G-20 meeting in Germany, which would be the first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since January, Trump has been agnostic about whether Russia “meddled” in the 2016 election, and has angrily denied claims by Democrats and media that he “colluded” with Russia to somehow deny Hillary Clinton the White House.
Every reporter and camera was watching closely when the two leaders met behind closed doors for more than two hours accompanied by only Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, and two interpreters. After adjournment, the western press began screaming for evidence that Trump confronted Putin about the alleged election tampering. Little else seemed to be of interest.
Tillerson told reporters that Trump aggressively questioned Putin about election interference, which Putin aggressively denied. The end result was that both shied away from relitigating the 2016 election controversy, but agreed not to use cyberattacks in the future for political subversion. With that out of the way they went on to reach a deal on a Syria cease-fire, make progress on the problems of North Korea, and discuss the Ukraine problem.
The response of the Washington Post editorial manager was to criticize Trump for opening the conversation with: “It’s an honor to meet you President Putin.” She opined that it was inappropriate to tell a villain like Putin that meeting him was an “honor.”
Being a normal human being, Trump got immediately to the point about Russian meddling in our election, according to Tillerson. Not surprisingly Putin denied any such interference. What was Trump supposed to then, call him a liar? Walk out of the meeting? In fact, Trump and Putin did exactly what two leaders should do — go on to more productive discussions.
I just don’t know about alleged journalists these days. If Trump walked across the Potomac River, the Washington Post would run a headline saying: “Trump can’t swim”.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.