In an incredible — and incredibly troubling — demonstration of now-President Donald Trump's ongoing Russian entanglements, a reporter from state-run Russian media praised Trump during a White House press briefing for his willingness to withstand "vicious attacks" from opponents over his team's ties to Russia.
President Donald Trump has faced a snowballing crisis of legitimacy that involves, among other things, his professed affinity for the Russian government that coincidentally aided his electoral victory, and which multiple agencies are investigating for possible collusion with Trump associates.
Against that already-surreal backdrop, Tuesday's White House briefing provided a stunning reminder of the baffling reality in which the country now finds itself.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has already shown a willingness to solicit questions from unusual sources, but it was the substance of the question he took from Andrei Sitov, a reporter from Russian government news agency TASS, that was truly eyebrow-raising. On live television, in the actual White House, Sitov expressed happiness that the new president "stands firm" against the "vicious attacks" Trump has endured over his "attitude to Russia."
And Spicer happily accepted the praise:
SITOV: ...the President has been what I can only describe as viciously, viciously attacked for his attitude to Russia, by his opponents here. He has withstood those attacks. So, I'm from Russia —
SPICER: I can tell.
SITOV: — and I ask you for my audience. Please explain us to why, what is his logic? Why he doing this? Why he is standing firm on wanting to improve? We are happy that he stands firm on that. But please explain to my audience his reasoning for believing that we can do it together.
Spicer: Because I think he is a great deal maker. And he's going to do what he can to fight on behalf of this country. And if a deal can be found, whether it's fighting for American taxpayers or working with another country to protect our national security interests or economic interests, he's gonna make a deal that's in the best interest of this country.
Even if you cast Sitov's praise as recognition merely of what Trump has done and said openly, that includes weakening the Republican Party platform's stand against Russia's actions in Ukraine and open solicitation of espionage against the U.S. State Department.
This stunning scene is yet another vivid and disturbing reminder of just how much of the current catastrophe occurred completely out in the open. Accountability for Trump has been late in coming, but this brazen display crucially underscores the degree to which that accountability must not falter.