Putin is Fine

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

If Donald Trump had not visited Europe this week the dominant story in the news would have been that his administration failed to reunite more than 4 very young children out of 102 with their parents by a court imposed deadline.  But first Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, which pushed the ordeal of refugee children and parents off the front pages.  Kavanaugh’s main qualification for the job, from Trump’s perspective, is his conviction that it should not be possible to subpoena or indict a sitting president, an issue that may very well be decided by SCOTUS.  It puts him in legal left field next to Alan Dershowitz, who argues in a new book that the Supreme Court can overrule a presidential impeachment.  Then Mike Pompeo’s attempts to make North Korea live up to the deal that Trump claims he struck with Kim Jong-un, but that only exists in his imagination, were labeled ‘gangster-like’ negotiating tactics by Kim’s spokespeople.  And at a rally the night before he left for Europe Trump declared that ‘Putin is fine,’ because ‘we’re all people,’ a level of logic that will puzzle philosophers for years.

Upon arriving at the NATO headquarters Trump immediately went on the attack, blasting Germany for a natural gas deal with Russia and member states for not spending enough on their defense.  Although the president could have scored moderate points on both issues Trump squandered the opportunity by claiming that Germany gets 70% of its gas from Russia, which in reality is 9%, and by stating that NATO members’ spending on their military has consistently been going down, while the opposite is true.  To save face on the latter issue Trump demanded an ad hoc meeting where he requested that member states annually spend 4% of their GDP on defense, more than the US spends and in spite of an existing agreement that the states will spend 2% by 2024.  At a press conference Trump proclaimed that everybody agreed to the 4%, which was later politely called untrue by French president Macron.  Then it was off to England for Trump, where he backstabbed Theresa May, whose government is already on life support, by criticizing her Brexit strategy, denying her a trade deal, and praising her two-faced opponent Boris Johnson.

After tea with the Queen, who will probably have put the fear of God in Trump to delight Melania, the president was off to his golf resort in Scotland, where he will prepare for his meeting with Putin by playing 36 holes.  Trump has already essentially waved off Putin’s meddling in the US elections by saying that he can only once again ask the Russian dictator ‘if he did it,’ and, barring a firm denial by Putin that Trump will immediately accept, tell him ‘not to do it again.’  Putin will be shivering.

While Trump did Putin’s bidding in Europe Republicans in Congress did everything they could to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign by insulting and abusing FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was involved in the probe at its beginning but removed by Mueller for messages sent to his lover.  The congressmen dehumanized themselves, with Louie Gohmert taking the deepest dive into the mud.

Nobody knows yet what gifts Trump will carry to Helsinki for his Russian handler, whom he calls a ‘competitor,’ not an enemy.  In the meantime, his lying to senator Durbin during a previous confirmation hearing creates at least the chance that Kavanaugh’s confirmation will still be derailed, but what is one lie more or less in the Trump era?

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