On Friday, the presidents of the United States and Russia met in Germany for over two hours behind closed doors to gab about Syria, Ukraine, and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Heading into the meeting, it was unclear whether Trump would bring up Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee, but afterward both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (who were both in the room) confirmed that the two leaders did indeed discuss it.
Tillerson spun the meeting as if Trump had been tough on Putin, saying that “the president pressed President Putin, on more than one occasion, regarding Russian involvement.” But Tillerson also said that “there was a very clear positive chemistry between the two” and that there “was not a lot of re-litigating things from the past.”
Hmm. If that weren’t bad enough, according to Lavrov—whose account has been partially disputed by the White House—Trump basically assured Putin that the accusations of election-meddling were just bitter attacks from the losers and haters.
And, of course, Putin said Russia didn’t hack the election, even though all the evidence from Trump’s own intelligence community points to the fact that Russia did. Apparently this was enough to satisfy Trump.
Tillerson stated that the two countries will now focus on how to “move forward” from their “intractable disagreement” about what happened during the election. They even agreed to set up a joint working group on cybersecurity, which must be prompting howls of laughter among the Russian hackers who worked so hard to infiltrate America’s democratic infrastructure.
There has been a lot of fevered speculation about whether Trump’s campaign directly colluded with the Russians to help Trump get elected. But collusion is precisely what we just saw in Germany: The Russians hacked the DNC to Trump’s advantage, and Trump returned the favor by giving them a pass.