Thursday, 17 October, 2019

To the Editor: Putin checkmates Trump

Putin of Russia was re-elected this week. Credit Yuri Kadobnov  Agence France Presse — Getty Images Putin of Russia was re-elected this week. Credit Yuri Kadobnov Agence France Presse — Getty Images
Patty Aguilar | 24 March, 2018, 11:12

"I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory", Trump said during his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

"The fact that the President did not even bring up the topic of our election security when he called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his "victory" in a pre-cooked election, is extremely troubling".

He added that the "fake news media" is crazed because they wanted him to excoriate Putin. US President Donald Trump yesterday said he would "take action to hold Russian Federation accountable" for the poisoning of a spy on British soil, as another ugly war of words erupted between Moscow and London over the Cold War-style attack.

Just minutes before Trump's tweets, the White House staff had suggested that he agreed with President Emmanuel Macron of France on the need to "hold Russian Federation accountable".

Trump defended his decision to congratulate Putin in his Wednesday tweets, saying Obama did the same in 2012. Bush tried to get along, but didn't have the "smarts". "PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!", he wrote. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that national security aides, before the call, specifically advised Mr. Trump not to do that.

The president was also criticized for failing to challenge Putin on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election or over the Kremlin's alleged involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Britain. The leak stunning the west wing and leaving chief of staff John Kelly frustrated and deeply disappointed and on capitol hill, outrage from the president's allies.

Whoever leaked the call and briefing instructions, likely did so to send a message to the public and to Trump.

It is certain to fuel suspicions about Trump's motives.

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The possibility that Putin could have some hold on the American president has lurked in the background over the past year as Trump displayed a mystifying affection for the Russian leader and ignored or excused his aggressive behavior and nefarious activities, most important, his interference in the 2016 campaign, a subject of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations.

One official suggested the documents preparing for the call may have been classified, making unauthorized disclosure a crime.

Artyom Kozhin, a spokesman for Russia's Foreign Ministry, told a televised briefing Friday afternoon that officials there have not been approached over the matter.

The White House on Wednesday said: "If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the president's briefing papers".

The row erupted as lawmakers heard that Russian Federation - slapped with U.S. sanctions over its meddling in the 2016 election - remains a menace as the country gears up for congressional polls in November.

McCain continued that Trump had "insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country's future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin's regime".

When White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked Tuesday why Trump didn't mention election meddling to Putin, she told reporters, "We speak about it and continue in ways, steps forward to make sure it never happens again".

The diplomat - who alternated between tough talk and quips - said in response to a question from a British official: "I am ashamed for you". That there is somebody close to him leaking this stuff out.

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