Trump's fawning behavior and his dismissive attitude toward American intelligence in a joint press conference with Putin were a national embarrassment. An AP reporter brought up Putin's denial of the charge by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential elections, and asked Trump "who do you believe?". Even if Trump were skeptical about the intelligence, the appropriate way for a U.S. President to respond would have been something like: "I take the concerns of these agencies very seriously, and I have conveyed to President Putin that we will not tolerate such behavior."
But Trump doesn't sound like a stateman unless he's reading from a script composed by aides. His off-the-cuff response to the reporter was beyond inept: "My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this. I don't see any reason why it would be. . .. But I have confidence in both parties." He was saying to the world that the considered judgment of the American intelligence community was no more credible than an unsupported denial by the authoritarian president of an adversarial power.
There are good reasons for doubting American intelligence about Russiagate, but Trump has shown no sign that he understands them. Instead, he repeatedly calls the Mueller investigation a "witch-hunt" and a "hoax". He sees the investigation as challenging the legitimacy of his presidency, and Hell has no fury like his wounded vanity.
The intensity of Trump's denial is matched by the righteous blood lust of Democrats yelling for Mueller's hounds to bring down the orange-haired stag. Their humiliation at losing the presidency to a vulgar fool would be eased if it turns out that Russian sabotage tipped the scales against them. The Democratic establishment could channel their pain into a holy crusade against Trump and Putin in 2020. No need to resort to the 'socialist' agenda of a Sanders or Ocasio-Cortez.
As Democrats gird themselves for November's election and the Battle of 2020, their media allies such as MSNBC and CNN have created a FOX-like echo chamber for Russiagate tirades. Here is Rachel Maddow's reflection on the meaning of Helsinki:
[Before today] "we
haven't ever had to reckon with the possibility that somebody has ascended
to the presidency of the United States to serve the interests of another
country rather than our own. . . .Before today, no serving U.S. president
has ever before taken sides with a foreign government against our own, let
alone a foreign government that has
just attacked our country."
The 'attack' Maddow refers to is the alleged hacking of the Clinton campaign's computers in 2016, for which Mueller indicted 12 members of the intelligence directorate of the Russian military on July 13, just 3 days before the Helsinki summit. An indictment is an unproven allegation, and this one will never be tested in court. In our system, someone indicted is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but Democrats and Maddow refer to the alleged Russian hacking as a fact.
A reporter at the Helsinki press conference asked Trump if he held Russia responsible in any way for the decline of relations between the two nations. Trump answered: "Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should've had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office."
Although Trump was hotly criticized for his response, he was right. I have argued elsewhere that NATO (under American leadership) has pushed us toward a new cold war by aggressively incorporating nations on the border of the Russian Federation and helping overthrow the democratically elected Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014. Stephen Cohen, one of the foremost historians of the last century in Russia, had this to say about the constant references to a Russian "attack": "This is reckless, dangerous, warmongering talk. It needs to stop. Russia has a better case for saying they've been attacked by us since 1991. We put our military alliance on the front door. Maybe it's not an attack, but it looks like one, feels like one."
There is a nauseating hypocrisy in the sanctimonious outcry against Russian attempts to influence our elections and sabotage our democracy. The U.S. has actively interfered in the democratic elections of numerous countries, including Ukraine (2014), Italy (1948), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1970-73), Russia (1996), Honduras (2009), Venezuela (2002, 2018), and Nicaragua (1990, 2018). Our 1953 intervention in Iran installed the Shah as an oppressive absolute monarch, which led to the 1979 revolution that gave rise to Ayatollah Khomeini and the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
The sabotage of our democracy by American institutions and politicians far outweighs anything Putin may have tried. The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are persons and their contributions to politicians are free speech. The 2010 Citizens United decision allowed unlimited financial contributions by corporations and billionaires, turning our political system into a plutocracy. Gerrymandering has subverted the democratic principle of one person-one vote. GOP-controlled states have purged voter rolls and made registration and voting as difficult as possible for minorities.
In spite of our sordid neglect of our own democratic institutions, Democrats and their media allies seem willing to risk nuclear confrontation with Russia over an unproven allegation of meddling in our 2016 election.