By: Neal Kisor, Features Writer
President Trump and Vladimir Putin came face to face this past week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam. The meeting followed the recent scandal of collusion committed by Trump’s campaign team. They wanted to dig up “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and for Russia to surface thousands of emails on her. Trump has remained steadfast in claiming that the people involved were not high on his campaign team, though one of the accused, George Papadopoulos, was named as “an excellent guy” by Trump in 2016. Regardless, those accused have been exiled from Trump’s favor.
Trump singled out former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, and former FBI Director James Comey, all of whom have cited evidence about Russia election activity in 2016. “They’re political hacks,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper, and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker.”
With all of the stirrings in Washington, some were a bit curious as to what the meeting between Trump and Putin would bring. Unsurprisingly, Putin denied any allegations towards collusion. Surprisingly, Trump went right along with him. “He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told reporters while en route to Hanoi for meetings with Vietnam leaders. Trump said he asked Putin again about the allegations, “you can only ask him so many times. … He did not do what they are saying he did.” This has caused many of Trump’s opponents, including John McCain to attack Trump, “Vladimir Putin does not have America’s interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk.” Trump responded by saying Russia “absolutely did not meddle in our election, [Putin] did not do what they are saying he did.”
Some of Trump’s opponents are calling his response suspicious. Trump may of been carefully holding back a more pointed response. After all, it would be unwise to call Putin out face-to-face and insult him and his people. Then again, as John McCain pointed out, putting trust in ex-KGB may be just as unwise.
Therefore, Trump had a choice. Please his people and insult a global superpower, or play it off with the risk of upsetting his people. Trump choose the former. The idea of Russian collusion won’t go away following this event, perhaps even more allegations will arise on both sides. Putin may always deny allegation but it will be up to Trump and the tolerance of America to speak up.