Putin's worst enemy? It's me!
Before presidential politics, Donald Trump gained his greatest fame on reality TV. With a tweet on Tuesday, he went all in for make-believe:
"I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!"
Put aside for a moment the conclusions of the intelligence community, the Republican-led Senate intelligence committee and top officials of his own administration that Russia's interference in 2016 was aimed at helping Trump.
Disregard that Russia's Vladimir Putin said at the Helsinki news conference that "I wanted him to win ... because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal." Who wants to believe Putin (except Trump, every time the Russian president denies meddling, until he says he doesn't believe him, and then does again, and then doesn't)?
Just take Trump's words — his other words. Standing with Putin, after blaming a low point in relations on "many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" Trump said, "that changed, as of about four hours ago." Don't forget Trump's bitter resistance last year when Congress passed a bipartisan sanctions bill to punish Russia for the interference. And of course's there's Trump's self-congratulatory tweets of the past week: "A great success ... Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin."
Trump offered no evidence that Moscow will be pulling for the Democrats — almost uniformly hostile to Putin — in the midterms, but that didn't stop him from trying to sell it.
As he told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention while attacking reports about Americans caught in the crossfire of his trade-war tariffs: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” See Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Midterm come-a-cropper insurance
As Trump declared "Tariffs are the greatest!" his administration announced $12 billion in emergency relief for American farmers slammed by Trump's trade disputes.
With congressional elections coming soon, the action underscored concern over protecting Republican seats in the Midwest and elsewhere. Some GOP lawmakers said they'd rather Trump just back off on the tariffs.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said, "America's farmers don't want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world." Sen. Charles Grassley, whose family operates a farm in eastern Iowa, said the administration's move was "encouraging for the short term," but farmers needed "markets and opportunity, not government handouts."
Given the Russia fallout, a comment from Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin had an extra sting: "This is becoming more and more like a Soviet-type of economy here."
Putin: Slow it down
Even Putin seems to be finding Trump too eager to take their relationship to the next level. The Kremlin on Tuesday said the Russian president doesn't think it's the right time to accept Trump's invitation to visit Washington this fall.
"After the [Helsinki] summit, you know what kind of atmosphere there is around its outcome," said Yuri Ushakov, a top Kremlin aide. "I think it would be wise to let the dust settle and then we can discuss all these questions in a businesslike way. But not now."
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Putin would not be invited to address a joint session of Congress. “That’s something we reserve for allies," Ryan said Tuesday.
A Quinnipiac poll found that only 27% of voters rated Trump's summit with Putin a success for the U.S., while 52% regarded it as a failure. Also, 51% of voters believe “the Russian government has compromising information about President Trump,” according to the survey.
Kidding? Not kidding
Ryan indicated he had a hard time taking seriously the White House statement that Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of former intelligence and national security officials because they have attacked him on Russia matters.
"I think he's trolling people, honestly," Ryan said.
Trump is serious about it, said Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley. "The president finds it extremely inappropriate for somebody to go on television under the perception of legitimacy, integrity, and level false and baseless claims against another person without any evidence whatsoever," Gidley said.
He does? That would be news.
LET'S make a deal
A day after his ominous all-caps warning to Iran, Trump said he's ready to make a "real deal" to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"Iran is not the same country anymore," Trump told the VFW audience, seeming to suggest it has been weakened by his decision to pull out of the agreement negotiated under Barack Obama. "And we'll see what happens, but we're ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster."
Ivanka's out of fashion
Ivanka Trump announced she is shutting down her fashion line of dresses, shoes and handbags because she is focused on her White House work and "I do not know when or if I will ever return to the business."
The brand sold by the president's daughter became a target of political boycotts and spurred concerns about conflicts of interest after her father was elected. Her company has been criticized for making its products in Chinese factories, for the conditions in those factories and for being granted trademarks by foreign governments, such as China, that would want to curry favor with the president.
What else is happening:
- Trump meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the White House on Wednesday. It may not go well. Trump has assailed the European Union as a top U.S. foe. Juncker called the president's tariffs "stupid" and warned, “We can also do stupid.”
- The VFW's leadership dressed down members who booed journalists at the convention after Trump egged them on. "Today, we were disappointed to hear some of our members boo the press during President Trump's remarks," the vets group tweeted. "We rely on the media to spread the VFW message, and @CNN, @NBCNews, @ABC, @FoxNews, @CBSNews, & others on site today, were our invited guests. We were happy to have them there."
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation's top law enforcement officer, laughed and repeated the words "lock her up" after a group of high school conservatives he was speaking to began the anti-Hillary Clinton chant. Under pressure from Trump, Sessions has assigned a federal prosecutor to look into various allegations Trump allies have promoted about Clinton.
- Addressing the same group Monday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley gently chided those who engage in "own the libs" trolling on social media. "Step back and think about what you’re accomplishing when you do this — are you persuading anyone?" Haley asked. She advised them: "This kind of speech isn’t leadership; it’s the exact opposite.”
- Trump said new satellite photos indicate North Korea has begun to take down missile-test facilities and called it a sign of progress. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said North Korea must allow inspectors on the ground to confirm the development.
- Distancing himself from Trump and his allies against the Russia investigation, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told CNN he believed there were "sound reasons" for judges to approve the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.