On Veterans Day weekend, Trump spoke with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, and in both cases praised them for their stance on issues they never actually discussed.
Donald Trump’s penchant for friendliness toward brutal dictators who terrorize and kill their own people is a massive embarrassment to the United States. But even worse, Trump and his administration keep claiming he talked to said dictators about their crimes, when he never actually did — and then getting exposed.
On Veterans Day weekend — a day we set aside to give thanks to the men and women who defend our freedom against such autocracy — Trump made this blunder not once but twice.
The trouble began on Saturday, after Trump came out of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, proclaiming that Putin “said he had nothing to do with” interference in the U.S. presidential election and that CIA officials were “hacks” for suggesting otherwise.
This in itself is a slap in the face to those who defend our national security and our rule of law. Trump contradicted his own intelligence agencies, which unanimously agree Putin orchestrated cyberattacks on the election, and special counsel Robert Mueller, who has already indicted three members of Trump's team in the Russia investigation and is closing in on Trump himself.
But as it turned out, Trump’s defense of Putin was even more absurd than it seemed at first, because the Kremlin shortly denied Trump and Putin had even discussed election interference in the first place. Trump went out of his way to attack our intelligence officers and cover for Putin by citing words that Putin did not even say.
Trump’s behavior was so ridiculously un-American that Navy veteran Malcolm Nance declared it a “Benedict Arnold moment.”
But Trump was not done embarrassing our country. Just a day later, he did exactly the same thing in his meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte is a ruthless goon who terrorizes his citizens with roving death squads under the guise of a “drug war,” and says it is OK to assassinate journalists if they are “a son of a bitch.” Trump stayed silent as Duterte ordered his police to use water cannons and batons on anti-Trump protestors at the U.S. embassy in Manila.
Pressed by reporters after the fact, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “briefly” discussed human rights with Duterte. But Duterte’s government shortly denied Trump did any such thing, saying Trump “appeared sympathetic” to Duterte. Given that a leaked transcript from May showed Trump telling Duterte his death squads were doing a “wonderful job,” Sanders’ account of events is highly suspect.
Trump is treating acts of war and crimes against humanity as no big deal — as if he can just give foreign strongmen a talking to, like disobedient kids, and everything is fine. The icing on the cake is that Trump cannot even be bothered to have those shallow, perfunctory conversations he claims he had.
The American people have suffered enough indignities. This is not leadership. This is a colossal mess that degrades our foreign policy and moral standing.