Fewer than two months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Having boasted on national TV that he’d removed Comey as a means of relieving pressure from the “fake news” investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Trump greeted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak like old friends.
Although U.S. news media weren’t allowed into the Oval Office, the Russian news agency TASS published photos of the three men smiling broadly, backslapping and shaking hands. That’s how American reporters learned of the controversial Kislyak’s presence. The White House neglected to mention it, presumably because his clandestine talks with fired National Security Director Michael Flynn lay at the heart of the FBI probe.
Lavrov even made heavy-handed jokes about Russian meddling, expressing mock surprise at Comey’s firing and observing sarcastically that it must be “humiliating for the American people to realize the Russian Federation is controlling the situation in the United States.”
The episode struck me at the time as an astonishing gesture of contempt, if completely in keeping with Trump’s furious denials that Russian skullduggery had anything to do with his election. In her Salon.com column, Heather Digby Parton compiled a short list of the president’s Twitter posts on the subject. According to Trump, the FBI investigation has been dismissed as a “Witch Hunt!”, a “total hoax,” “an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election,” and so on. We’ve all heard it 50 times.
If he’s been consistent about nothing else, Trump’s been consistent about that: Vladimir Putin’s spies had no role whatsoever in his mighty victory.
That is, until last week.
Following the publication of a highly detailed blockbuster Washington Post story about what the Obama administration knew about “President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement” in the conspiracy to damage Hillary Clinton and make him president, Trump came up with a whole new story: Yes, Russian hackers and spies interfered directly in an American presidential election: but it was all Barack Obama’s fault.
“Just out,” the president tweeted, “The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election…