The thrall isn't gone
Donald Trump is not the first American president to be smitten with Vladimir Putin. In 2001, George W. Bush said he had looked into the former KGB agent's eyes and saw his "soul."
Bush got over it. Seventeen years later — after Putin's aggression against neighbors and the untimely and unnatural deaths of opponents at home and abroad, not to mention the cyberintrusions on a U.S. presidential election — that Putin soul train has long left the station for the vast majority of U.S. policymakers and experts across the political spectrum. But Trump still sees something in the post-Soviet strongman's baby blues.
With the rest of Washington again aghast on Thursday, Trump went into his third post-Helsinki retreat, this time for giving serious consideration to an offer he deemed "incredible." Part of Putin's poker-faced proposition was to allow his agents to interrogate 11 Americans — including the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul — whom the Russians tie to a longtime Kremlin critic and human rights campaigner.
A statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was saying no to the "proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin."
Shortly after her statement, the Senate went ahead with a hurriedly arranged rebuke of Trump — a 98-0 snap-out-of it vote to refuse to make any U.S. officials, past or present, available to the Russians. Every Republican present stood with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who called the offer "lopsided" and "disgraceful."
But Trump shows no sign of backing down from his longer-term courtship of Putin. A subsequent tweet from Sanders said Trump had directed National Security adviser John Bolton “to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.”
For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Out of the loop
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was at a security forum in Aspen, Colorado, when word came — to his evident surprise — that Trump was planning a second summit.
"OK. That's going to be special," Coats said, prompting laughter from the audience.
The former Republican senator from Indiana, who is charged with overseeing the nation's 17 intelligence agencies, said he has yet to get a fill on what was said during Trump's one-on-one meeting with Putin on Monday. After Trump's statement in Helsinki, that he believed Putin's denial of election interference, Coats said the Russians did it and are still doing it.
Coats also told the group he would have advised Trump against meeting Putin alone, with just interpreters, but "that's not my job."
Trump's intelligence chief isn't the only official still in the dark about the two presidents' tete-a-tete. A top commander of U.S. military operations in Syria said he wasn’t informed of any agreements they reached.
Janison: Credibly incredible
Trump's words can mean nothing, something and everything. Such was the case for Putin's "incredible offer."
When Trump said it, he clearly meant Merriam-Webster's second definition, "amazing" or "extraordinary." As in the late-night TV ads urging "Act NOW to take advantage of this INCREDIBLE offer!"
It quickly became clear to the less credulous — that is, pretty much everyone who knows anything — that the first definition of "incredible" was more apt: "too extraordinary and improbable to be believed." See Dan Janison's column for Newsday.
Don't be stupid, be with Cupid
Trump's morning Twitter rant said the "Fake News media" want confrontation with Russia and "hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin."
Who's the adversary? "The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media."
Also, except with many of Trump's fellow Republicans and former top military and intelligence officials.
"Well, we saw earlier this week in Helsinki what was a truly an Orwellian moment," Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said from the Senate floor. It's "what happens when you wage war on objective reality for two solid years, calling real things fake and fake things real, as if conditioning others to embrace this same confusion."
Montenegro: We won't start the fire
Public officials in Montenegro were initially at a loss on what say after Trump suggested that NATO's newest and smallest member, which has a military with fewer than 2,000 members, could drag the alliance and the U.S. into World War III.
The country found its voice Thursday, and what came out was less a battle cry than a chorus of "Kumbaya," The Associated Press reported.
"We build friendships, and we have not lost a single one," read a government statement. "It does not matter how big or small you are, but to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity and democracy."
An extinct possibility
The Trump administration proposed ending automatic protections for endangered species of animals and plants and limiting habitat safeguards meant to shield them from harm.
Administration officials said the new rules would advance conservation by simplifying and improving how the landmark Endangered Species Act is used. Critics said the moves would speed extinctions in the name of furthering its anti-environment agenda.
What else is happening:
- Only 32% of Americans approve of the way Trump handled the Helsinki summit, while 55% disapprove, a CBS poll found, But as usual, there is a partisan split. Republicans approved 68%-21%. The split among Democrats was 8% approval/83% disapproval and among independents 29% approval/53% disapproval.
- Trump said in a CBS News interview that former Vice President Joe Biden would be his "dream" opponent in 2020. Alluding to Biden's past failed runs for president, Trump said "President Obama took him out of the garbage heap" and "Biden never by himself could never do anything.” (Trump's getting more creative with the double negatives.)
- Trump praised drug giant Novartis for temporarily postponing drug price hikes less than a week after Pfizer made a similar decision. The president's promised longer-term fix to bring down drug prices is still awaited.
- The White House and Senate Republican leaders pulled Trump's nomination of federal prosecutor Ryan Bounds to serve on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals following Republican defections. Some labeled Bounds' past writings as racially insensitive.
- Trump's no big friend of Silicon Valley, but he likes the European Union even less. He lashed out at the EU for fining Google $5 billion over its mobile phone operating system as another sign the bloc has "taken advantage of the U.S."
- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is hedging on whether the federal government would meet the court-ordered July 26 deadline in a week to reunify migrant families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexican border, Politico reported.