On Friday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders appeared on the White House lawn to inform the public that Donald Trump had called up Russian leader Vladimir Putin to chat about the Mueller report and that the two agreed “there was no collusion.” Minutes later, Trump followed up with a tweet reporting that he spent more than an hour talking about Putin concerning the “Russian hoax.” As an end to a week in which the White House stymied every effort by Congress to interview anyone associated with Trump, and the attorney general reeled off a string of lies to defend Trump’s obstruction … it was hard to have a better coda.
And then there was Trump’s press appearance. When a reporter tried to ask Trump whether or not Trump had discussed the first and largest finding of the Mueller report with Putin—the part about how Russia conducted a systematic, widespread, military operation using social media, traditional media, espionage, hacking, and even Russian boots-on-the-ground in the United States to alter the outcome of the the U.S. election—Trump cut the reporter off, calling her “rude.” When another reporter finally got a chance to complete the question, Trump had a clear answer. “It didn’t come up.”
So Trump and Putin talked about the Mueller report. Trump called it the “Russia hoax.” The two men agreed there was “no collusion.” But in this discussion there was no mention of Russia’s massive, successful efforts to alter the outcome of the 2016 election in favor of Trump. It didn’t come up.
The one thing that even Republicans pretended to believe out of the report from the special counsel was the scope and gravity of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. So naturally Trump immediately climbed onto the phone to Moscow to discuss the “hoax” and how great it is to get to have cooperation between the authoritarian leader of kleptocratic regime dedicated to destroying the free press and Vladimir Putin.
If you needed yet another marker that America’s long national nightmare of democracy and lawful government is over, jot down the date.
Considering that Trump is currently engaged in blocking every vestige of congressional oversight, a phone call to Putin seems like a grand idea. After all, the Russian leader has consistently centralized power since he first took office almost two decades ago, driving out opposition, leveraging corruption, and turning the Federal Assembly into a rubber stamp for policies like promoting censorship and listening in on every conversation.
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