The Trump administration and its allies in Congress have no interest in making public the details of President Trump’s conversations with Vladimir Putin. The most recent evidence was provided by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who denied a request last week for the State Department to produce documents detailing what Trump and Putin discussed during their sit-down in Helsinki.
The public is left then to rely on leaks, like the one that said Trump and Putin discussed arms control at their summit in Finland. And the one published today in the Washington Post as a part of an except of Greg Miller’s book The Apprentice. It suggests that one thing Putin tells Trump when they speak is that the White House is full of disloyal people who Trump can’t trust.
A trained intelligence operative, Putin understood the power of playing to someone’s insecurities and ego. On cue, he reciprocated with frequent praise for the president he had sought to install in the White House.
In phone conversations with Trump, Putin would whisper conspiratorially, telling the U.S. president that it wasn’t their fault that they could not consummate the relationship that each had sought. Instead, Putin sought to reinforce Trump’s belief that he was being undermined by a secret government cabal, a bureaucratic “deep state.”
“It’s not us. We get it,” Putin would tell Trump, according to White House aides. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”
The excerpt presents Trump as deferential to Putin and reluctant to take him on. He’s wary of Putin seeing him as the “aggressor,” Miller reports, and more suspicious of U.S. allies than the Russian president. That point is illustrated by a reported exchange between British prime minister Theresa May and Trump following the March poisoning of a former Russian spy in England. After May told Trump that British officials were 95 percent certain Russia was behind the attack, he responded by saying, “Maybe we should get to 98 percent.”