For a man who insisted he is "no puppet" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump sure seems eager to do Putin's dirty work — defending Putin while attacking Americans. And now Putin is starting to sound an awful lot like Trump.
Donald Trump has a theory about the 2016 election. He has many theories, in fact, some of which contradict each other, but one of his favorites is that the overwhelming evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election is "fake news" from bitter Democrats.
Trump resumed trumpeting this almost immediately upon his return from his first international trip abroad:
Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S. & how a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election has taken over the Fake News.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2017
Later in the day, Trump received a very special assist from none other than Putin himself, who of course denied that Russia interfered in the election but also helped lay the blame squarely on Democrats, though not by name:
"They want to explain to themselves and prove to others that they had nothing to do with it, their policy was right, they have done everything well, but someone from the outside cheated them," he continued. "It's not so. They simply lost, and they must acknowledge it."
The "people who lost the vote hate to acknowledge that they indeed lost because the person who won was closer to the people and had a better understanding of what people wanted," the Russian leader said in a reference to President Donald Trump.
Putin could not have delivered a better defense of Trump's electoral win if Trump had written the words himself. In fact, Putin even borrowed some of Trump's words from the 2016 campaign, suggesting that "maybe someone lying in his bed" was guilty of making it look as if Russia was trying to rig the election.
If that sounds familiar, it should. During one of the presidential debates, Trump infamously defended Russia against accusations that it was behind the hacking of emails WikiLeaks published. It could have been Russia, Trump said, but it also "could have been somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."
It is almost as if Trump and Putin operate from the same set of talking points.
Contrary to the Trump-Putin line in defense of Russia, it is not merely elected Democrats who believe Russia attempted to influence our election in Trump's favor. It is also the entire U.S. intelligence community. The extent of those efforts is not fully known yet, but that is why, as former CIA Director John Brennan so eloquently testified before Congress, further investigations are critical to the future of our democracy.
Still, Trump has his enablers — and not just Putin, but members of his own party, as well.
During a fundraiser in April, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told Republican donors that Democrats "want to continue the narrative that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are best friends, and that’s the reason that he won, because Hillary Clinton would have never lost on her own."
But despite the fervent wishes and best efforts of Trump, Putin, and other Republicans to simply mock out of existence the investigations into Russia's meddling, the investigations are not going anywhere.
That Russia wanted Trump to win, and that it made efforts to that effect, is not in doubt. The only remaining question is whether Trump or anyone on his campaign team knew it too, and if they might have had a hand in it. And that question cannot be blamed on Democrats.