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Monday, October 22, 2018

The horrifying spectacle of Trump’s joint press conference with Putin was worse than anyone could have imagined.

It was easy to predict that Trump’s summit with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in Helsinki would be a disaster for America. But the horrifying spectacle of what the world witnessed during Trump’s joint press conference with Putin was almost unimaginable.

When a reporter asked Trump directly if he would publicly denounce Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections right then and there, to Putin’s face, Trump didn’t just fail to do that. He also went on an unhinged rant about Hillary Clinton’s emails, promoted right-wing conspiracy theories, and said he didn’t “see any reason” why Russia would have been involved in hacking our elections.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire stood up and asked Trump the question that most needed asking: Was Trump willing to call Putin out for denying that he tried to sabotage our democracy, given that “every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded” that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections?

“My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?” Lemire asked Trump. “My second question is, Would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016, and would you warn him to never do it again?”

It should have been so easy. All Trump had to do was look at Putin and repeat exactly what Lemire had just said. That would have been the bare minimum of effort for any patriotic U.S. president.

Instead, we got … this.

“Let me just say we have two thoughts,” Trump began. “You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know, where is the server, and what is the server saying?”

It wasn’t clear at first which “server” he meant, but it quickly became obvious that Trump was referring to a far-right conspiracy theory that has been debunked by his own Justice Department. The false claim is that a former House Democratic IT staffer, whom Trump has dubbed a “Pakistani mystery man,” was the one who hacked the DNC servers, not Russia.

Then Trump started free-associating about Clinton’s emails and mused that “in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily.”

“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails?” Trump asked. “33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Of course, Trump lies about Clinton’s emails all the time.

But the audacity of doing so in front of Putin is staggering — especially since we now know that Russians started trying to hack into Clinton’s email on the very same day that Trump asked them to on live TV during a campaign event.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said in July 2016.

Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted that he believed Trump’s performance in Helsinki “rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors’” and called it “treasonous.”

It’s not hard to see why.