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The Russian Connection: Trump, G-20 and Putin

Donald Trump is in Europe again displaying his ignorance bigly. His first stop was in Poland where he was assured of a warm welcome by crowds bused in by the conservative government. He then proceeded to bash CNN, MSNBC, Barack Obama and America’s own intelligence agencies. He flew to Hamburg where he will meet for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even Trump’s top aides have no idea what Trump will say to Putin:

“There’s a fair amount of nervousness in the White House and at the State Department about this meeting and how they manage it because they see a lot of potential risks,” said Steven Pifer, a former ambassador to Ukraine who has worked for the National Security Council and the State Department. “There is this gray cloud for the president of the investigations about collusion, so any kind of a deal is going to get the micro-scrutiny of, ‘Is this a giveaway to the Russians?’”

Mr. Trump himself does not appear to be troubled by the meeting. He has told aides he is more annoyed by the prospect of being scolded by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and other leaders for pulling out of the Paris climate accords and for his hard line on immigration.

Mr. Trump’s team said he might bring up Russia’s documented meddling in the 2016 election, but he is unlikely to dwell on it: Doing so would emphasize doubts about the legitimacy of his election. Aides expect him to focus on matters involving Syria, including creating safe zones, fighting the Islamic State and confronting Mr. Putin’s unwillingness to stop the government of President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons against civilians. [..]

The biggest concern, people who have spoken recently with members of his team said, is that Mr. Trump, in trying to forge a rapport, appears to be unwittingly siding with Mr. Putin. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin has expressed disdain for the news media, and he asserted in a recent interview that secretive elements within the United States government were working against the president’s agenda. Two people close to Mr. Trump said they expected the men to bond over their disdain for “fake news.”

“You don’t want to come out of there saying, ‘We’re friends, and the enemy is the deep state and the media,’” said Michael A. McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia. “If it were somebody else other than Trump, you could imagine a tough conversation about Ukraine and election meddling, but that’s probably too optimistic. Politics does constrain, I think, the parameters of the possible for any kind of major breakthrough.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interviewed Ambassador McFaul on how Putin will try to manipulate Trump.