It’s a bizarre set of circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is not at all popular with the American mainstream, appears to be taking steps to intervene in the U.S. presidential election, including stealing and releasing Democratic emails in order to boost Donald Trump. It’s against this backdrop that the Republican candidate has repeatedly praised and defended the Russian autocrat.
Given this, it’s tempting to assume Trump would try to avoid drawing more attention to his pro-Putin attitudes. But as this New York Times report suggests, Trump apparently can’t help himself.
Donald J. Trump suggested on Monday that Hillary Clinton was too “tough” in her language about Russia, and said that if he won the election, he might meet with President Vladimir V. Putin before being sworn in. Mr. Trump made the remarks in an interview with the conservative radio host Michael Savage, who repeatedly affirmed Mr. Trump’s recent claims that the mainstream media was attempting to thwart him.
Trump wasn’t subtle about his perspective, complaining that Democrats shouldn’t “insult” Putin so frequently, and Hillary Clinton in particular “shouldn’t be talking so tough” about Russia.
Looking ahead, as Media Matters’ audio clip shows, Trump added, “If I win on Nov. 8, I could see myself meeting with Putin and meeting with Russia prior to the start of the administration.”
The GOP nominee may not fully appreciate just how provocative this is.
Trump, who’s occasionally gone to embarrassing lengths to defend Putin, has been briefed on allegations that Russia has been responsible for cyber-crimes in the United States, for the express purpose of influencing the outcome of the American election.
The Republican nominee nevertheless believes, if he’s elected, the appropriate move would be to incorporate Vladimir Putin into Trump’s presidential transition plans, effectively rewarding the Russian leader for suspected crimes against the American political process.
As recently as two days ago, Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, warned of Russia facing “severe” and “serious” consequences for compromising the security of the United States. With this in mind, do Pence and other Republicans realize that, as far as Trump is concerned, those “consequences” will include fawning treatment in the event of a GOP victory?