Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins

On Monday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatens ex-intel official's clearance, citing comments on CNN Protesters topple Confederate monument on UNC campus Man wanted for threatening to shoot Trump spotted in Maryland MORE will meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The big question is: Why is Trump meeting with Putin at all?

On Friday, 12 Russian intelligence operatives were indicted by a U.S. grand jury for a conspiracy to interfere with Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton to headline trio of DNC fundraisers: report Allegations of ‘Trump TV’ distract from real issues at Broadcasting Board of Governors Chelsea Clinton: Politics a 'definite maybe' in the future MORE’s 2016 campaign while helping Trump win the White House.

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Right now, the Russians are already busy hacking into the 2018 midterms.

 

“With the U.S. midterms approaching, Russian trolls found ways to remain active on Twitter well into 2018, trying to rile up the American electorate with tweets on everything from Roseanne Barr’s firing to Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump tweets raise questions about why Manafort jury isn't sequestered Giuliani: Trump Tower meeting was 'originally for the purpose of getting information about Clinton' Bannon: If Trump knew about Trump Tower meeting ‘you have to question it’ MORE’s divorce,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: Trump escalates feud with intel critics | Tesla shares fall after troubling Musk interview | House panel considers subpoena for Twitter's Jack Dorsey | Why Turkish citizens are breaking their iPhones Hillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down House Intel lawmakers introduce bipartisan election security bill MORE (R-Okla.) recently explained the Russian interference as an ongoing successful propaganda effort intended to “create instability and doubt in governments, because they believe they benefit from the chaos and loss of confidence in U.S. institutions.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsCNN: Trump intel chief not consulted before decision to revoke Brennan's clearance Study: 3 of every 10 House candidate websites vulnerable to hacks West Virginia set to allow smartphone voting for those serving overseas MORE, a former Republican senator, said on Friday that "the warning lights are blinking red again" when it comes to the danger from Russian cyberattacks.

But President Trump doesn’t see a problem. “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election,” the president tweeted June 28.

And a Gallup survey released last week found Trump’s view is leading his fellow Republicans to embrace Russia. “The percentage of Republicans calling Russia a friend or ally is up sharply since 2014, from 22 percent to 40 percent,” the pollsters reported.

Last week in London, Trump was pushed to say he will bring up Russian interference in U.S. politics but he predicted little would come of it.

“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me,’” Trump said downplaying Russian interference. “There won’t be a Perry Mason here…But I will absolutely firmly ask the question. And hopefully we’ll have a very good relationship with Russia.”

Democrats are pointed in explaining why Trump sees no problem.

Putin “supported President Trump over Hillary Clinton,” said Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Trump tells veterans he will 'stand up for America' | McConnell, Ryan say Putin not welcome on Capitol Hill | Mattis tries to explain Trump's Iran tweet Dems request briefing on Trump's private meeting with Putin House Dems press resolution denouncing Trump in wake of Helsinki MORE (D- N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in May.

Engel added: “If we allow foreign interference in our elections so long as it supports our political objectives, then we’ve put party before country and put our democracy in crisis.”

That did not stop a delegation of seven Republican senators and a congresswoman from going to Russia recently on what looked like a water carrying mission for Trump’s alternative reality.  

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDems to challenge Kavanaugh for White House records To solve the southern border crisis, look past the border GOP senator on revoking security clearances: 'I don't want to see this become routine' MORE (R- Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, came back to Capitol Hill to say that Russian interference in U.S. elections, while not acceptable, is “not the greatest threat to our democracy,” and “we’ve blown it way out of proportion.”

He later said the Republican visitors had warned the Russians about interference.

Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyPaul seeks to cut off Planned Parenthood funds via massive spending bill This week: Senate tries to avoid landmines on massive spending bill White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding MORE (R-Ala.), who led the delegation to Russia over the Independence Day break, offered a Trump-like view of U.S.-Russian relations:

"The United States does not want, nor does it need, to resume a Cold War posture with Russia, and our delegation trip was a small step towards trying to ensure that does not happen," he said.

That led Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Businesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill Dems ask Mnuchin to probe Russian investment in state election tech MORE (D- Md.) to say the delegation’s trip made it clear “there are members of the Senate who are either naïve or they don’t recognize the real risk factors that Russia imposes on our system of government.”

And last week the president appeared to distance himself from U.S. allies as if pursuing a Russian agenda.

A translated clip from Russian state-run television has gone viral in progressive media circles showing a Russian commentator marveling at Trump’s trashing of NATO.

“I never thought I’d live to see this!” the Russian commentator exclaims. “Neither the USSR nor Russia, who tried many times to drive the wedge between transatlantic allies, but the main player, Washington, and President Trump himself is doing everything to break down the foundations of transatlantic alliance and unity.”

In fact, Trump falsely claimed that Germany was a “captive” to Putin because “60 to 70 percent of their energy comes from Russia.”

The insulting mischaracterization drew a sharp rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I myself experienced a part of Germany that was controlled by the Soviet Union, and I am very happy today that we are united in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel said. “We decide our own policies and make our own decisions, and that’s very good.”

By contrast, Trump never misses an opportunity to say nice things about Vladimir Putin.

As a candidate, he said Putin was “a leader far more than our President (Obama)” and a “strong leader.”

And despite pleas from his aides, Trump congratulated Putin on his election victory earlier this year — legitimizing what many international observers believe to be a sham election.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former campaign manager awaits trial for illicit ties to Russia and his former National Security Adviser stands a felon for lying about his contacts with Russia.

Trump is banking on Soviet-style propaganda in the U.S. to make Russian interference, along with the Mueller investigation, into a partisan issue.

The winner in all of this madness is Putin. He is dividing Americans against themselves and America against her allies.

Only the American voters can stop it.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.