The White House's attempt to reassure the public about the 2018 election was a massive failure.
Putin’s serial humiliation of Trump reared its ugly head again Thursday when a pair of top national security officials demonstrated their lack of knowledge about what occurred the summit between the two leaders last month.
The White House held a press briefing on 2018 election security that was conducted by Sarah Huckabee Sanders and five high-ranking officials, including Trump national security adviser John Bolton and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason asked both Coats and Bolton to explain why Trump did not discuss Russian “malign activity” at the Helsinki summit.
Director Coats, who is in charge of the United States’ entire intelligence community, replied that “I’m not in a position to either understand fully, or talk about, what happened in Helsinki.”
Coats referred the question to Bolton, who told reporters that “President Putin said, I thought at the press conference, but certainly in the expanded bilateral meeting when the two leaders got together with their senior advisers, President Putin said the first issue that president Trump raised was election meddling.”
The reason that Coats knew nothing about the summit, and Bolton was forced to take Putin’s word for it that Trump said something about election meddling, is that Trump insisted on meeting alone with Putin.
But at the joint press conference that Bolton referenced, Putin did not say that election meddling was the “first issue” that Trump raised. Instead, Putin derisively told reporters that Trump “mentioned the issue of the so-called interference,” and repeated his denials.
Trump then responded by telling the world that he believed Putin’s denial over his own intelligence community, and DNI Coats specifically.
Since that summit, the secret meeting has continued to be an embarrassment for American officials, who were left in the dark when Russia announced unspecified agreements it had made with Trump, and for Republicans, who have blocked efforts to learn what actually happened between Trump and the Russian dictator.
Thursday’s briefing was obviously intended as a show of force to bolster confidence in the security of the 2018 midterm elections, but all Coats and Bolton succeeded in doing is reminding Americans how much closer Trump is to Putin than his own people.