The Slatest

Republican Senator Says Trump Lied About Russian Meddling During Summit as a Bizarro Form of Statecraft

President Donald Trump holds a World Cup football given to him by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.
Wait, was Trump playing 87-dimensional chess all along?
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

There was near-unanimity across the political spectrum in the criticism leveled at President Donald Trump for his inexplicably fawning performance during Monday’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A few rationalizations flared in the most devout corners of the conservative universe, including from this guy:

When it comes to what Trump was thinking, however, the right, like everyone, was largely at a loss for words. Until Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., plunged into that abyss of logic and offered up the most incoherent but revealing explanation for Trump’s conduct during the press conference Monday. Sen. Rounds, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee, served up this explanation to Erica Werner of the Washington Post for why Trump refused to acknowledge Russian election interference of any kind.

Everything I’ve seen and all the facts are very clear: Russia did meddle in our election. That was very clear. So I think what actually happened, I think Mr. Putin just got out-Trumped by Trump. If Mr. Putin thinks he can tell a whopper, he’s not gonna be outdone by this president. And so if Mr. Putin is going to look at him and try to straight-faced tell him that they didn’t meddle, our president can look right back at him and tell just as big a whopper back to Putin as Putin told him.

Trump’s lying as a form of statecraft. The Trump industrial complex still has a strong grip on the psyche of the GOP. It’s unclear whether Sen. Rounds was joking. Or was having a stroke during the interview.