He has hit a whole new level in recent days. On Thursday he denied that Russia was behind the 2016 election hacks, but waxed poetic about hackers who “are like artists” in the way they choose their targets depending on how they feel “when they wake up in the morning.” Putin continued, “If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions—which are right, from their point of view—to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia.” As my colleague Graham Vyse noted yesterday, this characterization undermines Trump’s longstanding argument, which is that Russia had no involvement in his election.
Megyn Kelly made her NBC News debut on Thursday by interviewing Putin. It was what you would expect from Kelly, who did not once ask Putin what race Santa Claus was and spent most of the interview making the amused yet condescending face that helped make her famous. Putin then took his trolling a step further.
“IP addresses can be invented, a child can do that! Your underage daughter could do that. That is not proof,” Putin said, referring to Kelly’s five-year-old daughter. More bizzarely, Putin also compared the accusations of Russian interference in the election to “anti-Semitism and blaming the Jews.” Asked about Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement, Putin quoted Bobby McFerrin, saying, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
Trump’s presidency so far has been the stuff of Putin’s wildest dreams. It seems unlikely that the Russians really thought that Trump would be elected, and instead hoped that their interference would damage Hillary Clinton’s legitimacy and standing. But in office, Trump has basically done exactly what Putin hoped. He has weakened the United States’s standing in the world and eroded relationships with key allies, particularly in Europe. In his interview with Kelly, Putin was spiking the football.