• Daniel Ethan Finneran

Trump And Putin Meet

July 2017

At long last, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have been formally acquainted. They stole away, quietly but convivially, to a small alcove in Hamburg, Germany. There, hidden in plain sight at the city’s G 20 Summit—an event during which the world’s foremost economies and dignitaries converge to rub elbows—they talked for well over two-hours. Slightly exceeding the meeting’s original thirty-minute time allotment, it appears the two men (joined by their respective secretaries of state and interpreters—though Putin’s English is fluent, if not refined, despite his best efforts to deceive) had many issues to broach and controversies to quell.

Since the moment the meeting adjourned, the nature of these issues has been everyone’s nagging interest and best guess. Knowing this, and knowing that his conversation with Putin would be immediately scrutinized, globally publicized, and quickly politicized, Trump made absolutely sure to address the most important point. That, of course, would be the nettlesome and unrelenting question of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential campaign. However incontrovertible the evidence of this is, Trump is loath to consider it as a consequential thing, let alone one that’s real; he’s shown on many occasions his strong aversion to the subject and the importunate journalists who dare bring it up. But, if America’s fragile peace of mind is to be salvaged and its confidence restored, with Putin, he needed to lay the issue bare and press his interlocutor a bit.

To our collective relief, we’re told that is precisely what Trump did. Via tweet, President Trump assured us that he pressed Mr. Putin “twice”, in the strongest of terms, to which the Russian president replied with a vehement denial. Apparently, this was quite sufficient for our president. He went on to reiterate his opinion, as it pertains to Russia’s alleged meddling (you’ll recall, his “opinion” is that shadowy Chinese henchmen or obese, crinose men in their bedrooms perpetrated the electoral assault). This is disquieting for two reasons: the first, as we’ve known for some time, the American intelligence sector—unanimously, credibly, and confidently—has come forth in saying that Russia, in fact, is the sole culprit, not the Chinese or some nameless chubby hacker abroad. The second is that President Trump, a man uniquely privy to unsurpassed American intel from the CIA, FBI, NSA and so on, refuses to belief that which he alone has access to. This, I think, goes a step beyond his wont egotism and his stubborn pertinacity. It shows, frighteningly, a man willfully credulous and disinclined to believe his intelligence community.

Perhaps this is too harsh a reading, but there’s no other lens through which it can be seen. Putin professed before Russian state media that Trump believed his denial outright. This, coming from a man groomed in the KGB to chicane and mislead at every available turn; his whole political career is grounded upon his subtle, mendacious ability to contort, beguile, and deceive. To Putin’s claim, Trump gave no response and the silence resounded as it so aphoristically does. The White House offered no rebuttal to Putin’s remark, at least not until Chief of Staff Reince Priebus did so, tepidly, days later. He tried claiming, contrary to what the president had just said, that he didn’t actually believe Putin’s denial. This, we’re seeing, is the administration’s feeble attempt to suffocate a fire that’s already been set free. Our president, the man sworn to protect our jewel of a country from assailants domestic and foreign, sides not with the sober candor of our intelligence community, but with the habitual lying, the inveterate enmity, and the roguish mendacity of a one Vladimir Putin.

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