On Tuesday, President Trump attempted to repair some of the damage from his disastrous press conference in Helsinki, in part by claiming that when he downplayed the possibility that Vladimir Putin had engineered the hacking of the 2016 election — saying, “I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia” — he had actually meant, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.”
Yes, this is a brazen and laughable lie, so blatant in its disregard for the American public’s intelligence that it’s incredible the president even attempted it.
So, of course, multiple Republican senators lapped it right up.
Senator Marco Rubio, a master of cognitive dissonance, said he was glad that the president “clarified” what he actually meant.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman followed suit.
But as any sentient being who watched Trump’s performance in Helsinki recalls, it wasn’t like the president committed one slip of the tongue; he spent most of the press conference degrading American intelligence agencies, promoting wacky Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories, and nodding along as Vladimir Putin ate his lunch in front of the world. And, even as he backtracked on Tuesday, allowing that he accepted the U.S. assessment that Russia had indeed hacked the election, he couldn’t help but add, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.” Bloomberg reported that he had only agreed to correct the record, so to speak, after being prodded by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In an appearance with Sean Hannity Monday night, where he had ample opportunity to amend anything he had said earlier in the day, he failed to do so.
Republican senators are aware of the ridiculousness of their positions, of course. But by condemning the president (which many of them did on Monday) they could face the wrath of Trump partisans who are unlikely to flee the presidential fan club, even over Helsinki. So they must feign a posture of irritated acceptance, and pretend that Trump’s correction means everything is basically fine again. On to the Supreme Court hearings!