Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He revealed that he was actually considering Putin's request to interrogate a former U.S. ambassador and other Americans.

Michael McFaul was the U.S. Ambassador to Russia for two years during the Obama administration. At the time of McFaul's appointment, Putin was furious at the United States over the passage of the Magnitsky Act, which placed crippling sanctions on the semi-criminal billionaires who, in essence, hold Putin's money for him. (When stolen money is counted, Putin is often regarded as the richest man in the world--but actually using the stolen money relies on the sanctions being lifted.) Putin made the newly appointed McFaul the face of his retaliation against the United States.

At the disastrous Helsinki summit on Monday, Putin offered to let the Mueller investigation observe the interrogation of 12 indicted Russian military officials--but only if Trump would permit Bill Browder (the person behind the Magnitsky Act) and various U.S. citizens to be interrogated in turn. Trump responded by blurting out his support, saying "I think that's an incredible offer." But it was generally hoped that Trump's handlers would explain to him the problems with that idea, and that Putin was basically mocking the indictments by setting completely impossible conditions.

Today, Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed that Trump was actually taking Putin's demands seriously:
REPORTER: Thank you, Sarah. Russian authorities yesterday named several Americans who they want to question, who they claim were involved in Bill Browder’s “crimes,” in their terms, including a former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Does President Trump support that idea? Is he open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia? 
SANDERS: The President is going to meet with his team, and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that.
The State Department, in its own press briefing less than an hour later, called the Russian demand "absolutely absurd." That was not the end of the undiplomatic language from the parts of the U.S. government that actually work with foreign countries. One currently serving diplomat gave this reaction to the Daily Beast:
It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government.

...The president has first and foremost his interests at the top of his mind, as opposed to the government’s. That’s very clear over the past week and a half, between shitting on our NATO allies and kissing Putin’s ass. He cares more about himself than the nation and any of us who serve it. Either he’s compromised by Putin or he’s a pussy, in which case he should grab himself.  

Why is this a bad thing?

  • A president who actually believed the U.S. intelligence community's findings, or understood that Russia is a hostile nation, would have rejected this offer out of hand.
  • The president is supposed to protect the people who serve the United States, not hand them over to enemy nations as favors or bargaining chips.
  • Presidents who don't want to be seen as the illegitimate puppets of hostile dictators probably shouldn't do things like this.