When I got home, I googled up some news stories on it, and the Leftist side of the media aisle was fully compatible with NPR's take. And the view from the Right wasn't all that different. Fox's Trish Regan (sorry, no idea who she is... or much of anyone else still on the channel) had a clip saying:
"This was clearly not [President Trump's] best performance. He's done a whole lot better than this. He should have defended us. He should have defended his own intelligence community.", and it went downhill from there. Again, lots of exuberant commentary, but... not much substance.
It was getting late, and I really wasn't in the mood, but... this seemed like something I'd better bother with, so I pulled up the full uncut video, from CNN, and the transcript from NPR, and watched.
WTH? I was promised weakness, ineptitude, 'treasonous statements!', and all of that was supposed to come out of this? Seriously? Worst of all, late as it is, here I'm at it, once again, having to stick up for someone that I've dislike since the 1980's, someone I'd much rather had lost the primaries in 2016, but... this spiel is not only wrong, but these wrongs are consequential to our lives, and so... here I go again, seeing to it that the wrongs are addressed. Sheesh.
From his prepared statement, I took issue with one statement, which I'll note below, that I think improperly brought domestic political disputes into an a discussion of international affairs, which was unwise and bad form. But... it wasn't all that. Or, IOW, Trump. Go figure. And the other issue was less a problem with what he said, but that he said it in the midst of a larger comment, that was way too easily one to be taken out of context. He knows better than that.
But first, from his statement, he made several decent points, and made the usual statements about the importance of good dialogue between America and Russia, and that,
From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility., and also that,
A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia but it is good for the world. The disagreements between our two countries are well-known and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.
But if we're going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we're going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests. Too often in both recent past and long ago, we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table....
"... But our relationship has never been worse than it is now.Which you'd think would be encouraging, but which was unfortunately followed by what I mentioned above as an actual fault on his part:
However, that changed, as of about four hours ago...."
"...As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics, or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct...", that statement should have ended at "or the media", full stop. He never should have brought in issues of domestic politics into his statement at the press conference after an important international discussion. Yes the press was going to, but he should have left that to their own bad form. Bad Trump.
But that too, was followed shortly after by quite a good line, one that you'd think would be appreciated by all concerned,
"...Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia afford the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.On the issue that plagues the minds of media and NeverTrump'rs Left & Right, 'Russian interference!' in our elections, Trump stated that,
I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.
As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people...."
"...During today's meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections.Given the fact that our own investigations into the alleged issue are still ongoing, and that zero evidence has been presented of actual the dread 'Russian Collusion!', that was all I, and I think most people needed or cared to see. Repeating: The investigation is still ongoing, there are no charges to be made, until there are charges actually made.
I felt this was a message best delivered in person. I spent a great deal of time talking about it and President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it and he has an interesting idea...."
President Trump went on to mention other issues that might take some precedence over the medias preferred 'Russia!" narrative, like nuclear proliferation, the denuclearization of North Korea, and radical Islamic terrorism, and also that,
"...As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one....", keeping in mind that Trump has already bombed Putin's best mid eastern bud, Assad, and that,
"...I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS. We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area....", and keeping in mind that Trump cancelled the Iran 'treaty'(an unsigned, pitiful, agreement), and concluded with
"...This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together.That was on the whole a solid statement of the situation, and a reasonable expectation for starting towards improving relations. I've no problem with it, other than what I noted. Do you? If so, could you add a comment which references what in particular you have issue with?
It's in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation and we have agreed to do so...."
Then the press dove in. The first made an effort to stir the pot, concluding with,
"And the second question, before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary, a rival, and yet you expressed hope that you will be able to bring this relationship to a new level. Did you manage to do this?"And for those who wanted Trump to 'STAND UP TO PUTIN!!!", I think he corrected the reporter, and set the right tone for that,
TRUMP: No, actually I called him a competitor and a good competitor he is.Then we got a delightful does of Reuters:
And I think the word competitor is a compliment. I think that we will be competing, when you talk about the pipeline. I'm not sure necessarily that it's in the best interest of Germany or not but that was a decision that they made.
We'll be competing. As you know the United States is now or soon will be, but I think it actually is right now, the largest in the oil and gas world...."
REUTERS: Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it's U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable or anything in particular? And if so, what would you what would you consider them that they are responsible for?Not only was that a misstatement and conflation of what Trump said, but it ignored the fact that Trump already stated in his statement, that they had discussed points of deep disagreement over, and which he hoped progress would be made.
WTH else did they expect? Did they want Trump to curse Putin out, and maybe shove him off his podium? Did they want Trump to behave as the thug like to fantasize about him being?
Instead he answered, in part:
TRUMP: Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we've all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. And I think we're all to blame., and,
I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we're getting together and we have a chance to do some great things...
"...But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the, the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart, it's kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it..., for those who are upset that he said that we've made mistakes, I'm sorry, but I remember Bush doing nothing when Putin ransacked Georgia, and I remember Obama doing virtually nothing with Ukraine/Crimea - those were major mistakes of U.S. policy. He went on to give his very well known positions on the matter. The reporter continued,
REPORTER: For President Putin, if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?...Trump replied, but if you've heard him discuss the matter at all, it was more of his known opinions on the matter. But Putin's response was interesting:
PUTIN: As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one – if you take this — where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?This is not only gold,
He defends the interests of the United States of America. And I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests that are common.
We are looking for points of contact. There are issues where our postures diverge and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences, how to make our effort more meaningful....
"where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?", but it should be the starting point of every one's thoughts on such issues, and if it isn't, if it's too much for you to grasp or consider, you really ought not to be discussing the matter at all. Putin is an ex-KGB officer, if you think that we can trust him, or that he has our best interests at heart, then you are a fool. He doesn't trust us, and we shouldn't trust him. But unfortunately he is the thug who's the ruler of the nuclear power of Russia, and to the extent that we can find areas where our interests align, then we do need to try and find a way to work together on them. Calling him names, isn't going to be helpful in that regard. But he also went on to make a couple other statements, that I suspect infuriate the media and talking heads a lot more than anything that Trump said, and which Trump is catching the heat for:
",,,We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact that definitively prove that collusion? This is utter nonsense.,,,", and to answer that with the extent of information that the Mueller investigation has so far revealed, the answer is: No, you cannot name a single fact that proves 'collusion'. Period. But it gets better. Putin went on to note that we do have existing treaties for extradition and interrogation of witnesses, and that of his 12 intelligence officers that Mueller recently indicted,
"...We can offer the appropriate commission headed by special attorney Mueller., but the kicker, to the heads of the NeverTrump'rs Left & Right, was that he 'is aware' that some of Russia's official 'colluded' with American officials, including Hillary:
He can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal and official request to us so that we would interrogate, we would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes and our enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States.
Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller, we can lead them into the country and they will be present for this questioning...."
...we believe have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia. And we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.That's kinda a big deal. Even after you de-Pravadize it... that's a big deal. And it's my guess that that is what most of the uproar over this summit has really been about.
For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over one and a half billion dollars in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russian army in the United States and yet the money escaped the country, they were transferred to the United States.
They sent huge amount of money - 400 million - as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
Well, that's their personal case, it might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.
So we have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions. So we have an interest of questioning them. That can be a first step and we can also extend it. Options abound.
And they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.
There was then some interesting (in a non-sensational way) geo-political questions and answers, until the AP Reporter brought us back to as much sensationalism as he could muster, and which prompted the excessive answer from Trump, that was easily taken out of context to make it sound like he was taking Putin's word, over U.S. Intelligence agencies:
REPORTER, AP: President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? 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 want him to never do it again?And Trump of course jumped in with both feet, beginning with,
TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. 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?, and he continued on with more questions about missing servers and emails, and with this being followed by his previous statement that "...I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections..." and that "...I spent a great deal of time talking about it and President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly...", with that in mind, he then said a few lines, of which only the middle two are taken note of, sans that context:
I've been wondering that. I've been asking that for months and months..."
"...With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.The obvious meaning of that, to me, and to most who don't have an abscess on their conspiracy glands, he's saying in essence, that "I've already told him that I'm pissed off about this, and such stuff had better end. I've told him that, he's denied involvement, whadoyouwannametodo, slap him around some?! We've accused him, he's denied it. Until we've got facts, we can go no further. But there are facts out there, and believe you me, I want those servers full of facts found!'
My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia.
I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server but I have, I have confidence in both parties...."
If you're able to view that entire press conference, and come away from it as President Trump saying he's best buds, lackey even, to Putin... well unless you can point to me the comments, in context, from the transcript that backs you up, then I've gotta say, that you have zero credibility in what you are saying.
But, hey. I could be wrong. How about you prove it?
For those who're still on the 'Treason!' kick, it might be worth your while to look into, you know, what Treason is defined as in our Constitution, Article 3, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2, which is this:
"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court., and if you're curious why they came to that definition (which, interestingly, relies heavily on how an English King from the 1300's, Edward III, defined it), you can 'listen' to the framers discussing and debating what our Constitution would define as being treasonous, here,which begins with,
The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted."
"Mr. Madison, thought the definition too narrow. It did not appear to go as far as the Stat. of Edwd. III. He did not see why more latitude might not be left to the Legislature. It wd. be as safe as in the hands of State legislatures; and it was inconvenient to bar a discretion which experience might enlighten, and which might be applied to good purposes as well as be abused.Hopefully, if you're interested in bandying about charges of 'Treason!', you'll take the few minutes necessary to give that a look over.
Mr Mason was for pursuing the Stat: of Edwd. III.
Mr. Govr Morris was for giving to the Union an exclusive right ..."
And if you really care about how that applies to the real world, as my friend Jim asked: "Contextually, what is considered Aid and Comfort?", which is a very good question, and it seems that our Supreme Court has generally concluded that such a thing requires actions be taken, which... personally, I'm not so sure giving a press conference qualifies there, but that may just be me. But see for yourself, in this interesting commentary on the matter from a SCOTUS opinion during WWII, CRAMER v. UNITED STATES:
' "...Treason of adherence to an enemy was old in the law. It consisted of breaking allegiance to one's own King by forming an attachment to his enemy. Its scope was comprehensive, its requirements indeterminate. It might be predicated on intellecutal or emotional sympathy with the for, or merely lack of zeal in the cause of one's own country. That was not the kind of disloyalty the framers thought should constitute treason. They promptly accepted the proposal to restrict it to cases where also there was conduct which was 'giving them aid and comfort.'Hope that helps!
Aid and comfort' was defined by Lord Reading in the Casement trial comprehensively, as it should be, and yet probably with as much precision as the nature of the matter will permit: '* * * an act which strengthens or tends to strengthen the enemies of the King in the conduct of a war against the King, that is in law the giving of aid and comfort' and 'an act which weakens or tends to weaken the power of the King and of the country to resist or to attack the enemies of the King and the country * * * is * * * giving of aid and comfort.' Lord Reading explained it, as we think one must, in terms of an 'act.' It is not easy, if indeed possible, to think of a way in which 'aid and comfort' and be 'given' to an enemy except by some kind of action. Its very nature partakes of a deed or physical activity as opposed to a mental operation.
Thus the crime of treason consists of two elements: adherence to the enemy; and rendering him aid and comfort. A citizen intellectually or emotionally may favor the enemy and harbor sympathies or convictions disloyal to this country's policy or interest, but so long as he commits no act of aid and comfort to the enemy, there is no treason. On the other hand, a citizen may take actions, which do aid and comfort the enemy—making a speech critical of the government or opposing its measures, profiteering, striking in defense plants or essential work, and the hundred other things which impair our cohesion and diminish our strength but if there is no adherence to the enemy in this, if there is no intent to betray, there is no treason...."