Political News

Donald Trump is trying to pull a bait and switch on his 2nd meeting with Putin

Posted July 19, 2017 8:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 19, 2017 10:07 a.m. EDT

That President Donald Trump huddled with Russian President Vladimir Putin for almost an hour at a G20 dinner in Germany earlier this month is news. The meeting, which came after a more-than-two hour formal sitdown the two men had earlier in the gathering, was previously undisclosed and, given the nature of Russia's aggressive meddling in the 2016 election, is something we need to know more about.

What's as telling as Trump's willingness to chat with Putin with no US translator or any other US official around, however, is the way in which the president responded to the news of the meeting.

He did it via his preferred communication tool: Twitter. And here's what he said -- in two separate tweets sent Tuesday night:

This is a classic bit of Trump misdirection.

No media outlet reported anything about a "secret dinner." No one is making the dinner look "sinister." And, no one is suggesting that the media was unaware that the dinner was taking place.

That is not the story. The story is that the president of the United States had a somewhat lengthy sidebar conversation with the president of Russia. With no other U.S. officials present. And that we didn't know about it until Ian Bremmer reported on it Monday night.

Trump, of course, knows all of that. He is also smart enough to understand that this is a bad story for him -- particularly in light of the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling into the 2016 election and the drip-drip-drip of details about a meeting his son, Don Jr. had with a Russian lawyer in hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton.

That's why he's working to change the story -- by responding to allegations no one has made. And he's working to change the story into one that he knows will score points with his hardcore base: The media is terrible!

"The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest!" The media is "sick!"

That will, of course, work for some segment of people who take Trump's words for, well, everything, or only get their news from the president's most ardent media defenders.

But, because it will work doesn't make it true. This is not a media story. This is a story about an undisclosed meeting between the presidents of the United States and Russia at a time when relations are very much in flux between the two countries. Making it about anything else is a purposeful diversionary tactic by Trump. Simple and plain.

Questions about what Trump and Putin talked about -- we don't know since there was no U.S. officials or translator present -- need to be answered by this White House. Sadly, there's little chance they will be. Instead, we're likely to get more attacks on the media for their alleged role in the story. Which is, to put a fine point on it, just plain wrong.