We wrote on Friday about the joint press appearance by President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Trump made a mockery of years of controversy over Russian meddling in the 2016 elections by playfully wagging his finger at Putin and asking him facetiously to not hack the 2020 elections. The Guardian reports that wasn’t the only thing Trump and Putin yucked it up about in Osaka:
As they sat for photographs at the start of their first formal meeting in nearly a year, the US president lightheartedly sought common ground with Putin at the expense of the journalists around them in Osaka.
“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” Trump said. [Pols emphasis]
To which Putin responded, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.”
Twenty-six journalists have been murdered in Russia since Putin first became president, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), many of them investigative reporters scrutinising governmental abuses.
Trump’s joking around with Putin about interfering with American elections and (especially, depending on your profession) joking about “getting rid” of journalists with a man who may be responsible for the deaths of dozens of journalists is just the latest conscience-shocker of 2019 for fellow Republicans–who seem to be contending with both more frequent and more severe lapses in moral judgment by President Trump as the next election season approaches. It is objectively difficult to comprehend how Trump could so audaciously make light of what the Mueller investigation and numerous other probes all have concluded took place: that Russian intelligence deliberately interfered in the 2016 elections in order to support Trump’s election.
It’s even harder to understand how Sen. Cory Gardner can be silent about this latest embarrassing display, which he has now been for several days. Almost exactly one year ago, President Trump met with Putin for a summit in Helsinki, Finland. At that time, Trump expressed doubts in a joint press conference that Russian interference in the 2016 elections had even happened. And that was too much for Cory Gardner, who fired off as close to an angry response to Trump as you’ll ever see within hours of the meeting:
Whether it be chemical attacks on allied soil, the invasion of Ukraine, propping up the murderer Assad in Syria, or meddling in our elections through cyber-attacks, Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains an adversary to the United States…I encourage the Administration to avoid the mistakes of past Administrations in normalizing relations with Russia at zero cost to Putin and his regime. [Pols emphasis]
Just like with Kim Jong Un and the Helsinki summit a year ago, Donald Trump is doing the exact opposite of what Gardner asked him to do. The difference between now and a year ago is that Gardner, for whatever reason, does not see any political value in challenging the President’s actions this time. Given that Trump has progressed from doubting the threat Gardner says Russia poses to openly mocking it, Gardner should if anything be more angry, not less. And that’s before the jokes about killing reporters.
Actions speak louder than words, but Gardner’s silence roars louder still.