Friday, June 28, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He joked with Vladimir Putin about interfering in the 2020 election.

Trump appeared today with Russian president Vladimir Putin, one of the few foreign leaders he has not publicly insulted recently. A reporter asked if Trump would tell Putin not to interfere in the 2020 election.

Trump grinned and wagged a finger at Putin, saying, "Don't meddle in the election, President." Putin paused for the translation, then laughed along with Trump.

Putin's government used espionage, cyber-attacks, and disinformation campaigns to influence the 2016 election on Trump's behalf, with the Trump campaign's knowledge. Literally every law enforcement and intelligence agency in the executive branch that has investigated Russia's attack has reached that conclusion, and criminal charges have been brought against Russians as a result.

Trump alone continues to insist that no such attack on the democratic process occurred, and has repeatedly publicly defended Putin. Trump also recently said that he would take foreign help in getting re-elected, if it were offered. (It is illegal to do this.)

Later in the same appearance, as the American press was leaving the room, Trump called after them, "Get rid of them, fake news." He added to Putin, "You don't have the problem in Russia. We have it, you don't have it." Putin chuckled and replied, "Yes, yes, we have it, the same."

Trump is actually correct here on both counts. "Fake news," or knowingly false disinformation presented as neutral reporting, does exist in the United States. It was one of the main tactics used against Americans by Putin's regime.

But Putin has almost no problem with Trump's version of "fake news," meaning actual reporting that is critical of him. There is virtually no press freedom in Russia, where almost all of the media is state-controlled, either directly or through threat of violence. About two hundred journalists have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances during Putin's time in power. 

Why should I care about this?

  • There's nothing funny about attacks on Americans' democratic rights.
  • It's bad if a hostile foreign power has influence over the President of the United States.