Like many Americans, we found it odd when Donald Trump repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin during the 2016 presidential campaign.
We find it even odder that President Trump has not publicly criticized Russian interference in the election following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment on Friday of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian businesses for doing just that.
Trump’s own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, called the indictments “incontrovertible” evidence of a Russian plot to undermine the 2016 election.
The president responded to the indictments in a predictable manner. In a series of tweets over the weekend, he lashed out at the FBI, the media, the Democratic Party, former President Barack Obama and even McMaster.
He condemned everyone but Putin or Russia. The closest he came was this tweet:
“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. Then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their (expletive) off in Moscow. Get Smart America!”
In other tweets, Trump claimed vindication because the indictments didn’t reveal collusion between his campaign and Russia. He later blamed Obama for Russia meddling in the election since he was president at the time and was aware of its efforts.
Critics called the tweets the ramblings of a maniac. By now, Americans are used to the president’s undisciplined, unconventional and often head-scratching yammerings on Twitter.
But even Republicans found it inexplicable that the president didn’t call out Russia for interfering in the election. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA, said Trump should tell Putin to butt out of our elections and quit the cyber warfare interference in our democracy.
But as of Monday, Trump hadn’t rebuked Russia. There were no speeches in the Oval Office condemning Russia or promises of retaliation. There was no outrage. There was no finger-pointing or eloquent speeches defending American democracy.
Perhaps more telling, there was no move by the White House to implement sanctions against Russia that Congress passed by wide majorities to punish the country.
The sanctions were to be imposed by Jan. 30, but the White House demurred at that time, claiming the threat of sanctions was “serving as a deterrent,” according to Politico.
Trump’s silence on the Russian interference, which he previously called “a hoax” and a “made-up story,” is deafening, especially when considered in historic context. And it’s hard to ignore historic context when the indictments and Trump’s reaction coincide with Presidents Day.
Which begs the question — how would other presidents have dealt with Russian interference in a U.S. election? How would Ronald Reagan have reacted? Would he have taken a pass like Trump has?
What about Teddy Roosevelt? Would Washington or Lincoln sit idly by without defending our country?
Do you think Truman or Kennedy or either of the Bushes would have demurred the way Trump has?
Something to think about.