In yet another sign of the internal disarray in the Trump administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directly contradicted Donald Trump’s talking points on the issue of Russian sanctions — to Russia.
In his first face-to-face meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov since the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for its interference in our election, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted the hacking scandal seriously damaged relations between the two countries.
But that viewpoint diverges sharply from the one to which Donald Trump still adheres.
Tillerson told reporters on Monday that he tried to help Lavrov “understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the U.S. and the American people and the Russian people.”
He added that the interference “had created serious mistrust and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.”
It’s extraordinary — and appalling — that eight months after the election, and seven months after the U.S. intelligence community confirmed Russia’s unprecedented and aggressive involvement in last year’s election, the Trump administration is still trying to impress upon Moscow how “serious” the situation is.
Specifically, the intel community found that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an ‘influence campaign’ targeting the U.S. election, with goals that included undermining trust in the U.S. electoral process, denigrating Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, and helping Trump.”
Tillerson’s rhetoric is definitely not in line with that of Trump, who for months has routinely dismissed allegations about Russian interference and collusion as being a “hoax” — which he did once again Monday morning.
And Republican senators were stunned when Trump recently went so far as to blame them, and not Russia’s hacking of our election, for putting our “relationship with Russia” at an “all-time & very dangerous low.”
Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can't even give us HCare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2017
“I was shocked by that,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) told the Associated Press.
Once again, it feels like there is no uniform U.S. foreign policy.
When Trump recently found himself boxed in by Congress and forced to sign the new sanctions bill, he couldn’t resist issuing a concurrent, rambling statement where he lashed out at his critics, and did his best to play down Moscow’s unprecedented attack on our democracy.
That’s precisely why Congress opted to tie Trump’s hands with the sanctions, which does not allow him to unilaterally ease future penalties on Russia.
If Congress and Tillerson can see the truth about Russia’s incursions, it remains an open and troubling question why Trump simply refuses to.