Juan Williams: Putin wins as GOP spins

On Monday, President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations 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 ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on 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.Don TrumpHow Trump uses fundraising emails to remain undisputed leader of the GOP Donald Trump Jr. joins Cameo Book claims Trump family members were 'inappropriately' close with Secret Service agents MORE’s divorce,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordBill requiring companies report cyber incidents moves forward in the Senate Manchin's 'red line' on abortion splits Democrats Lankford draws second GOP primary challenger in Oklahoma 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 CoatsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race Cyber preparedness could save America's 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' 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 EngelLawmakers pay tribute to Colin Powell NYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney 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 JohnsonA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Sen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' 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 ShelbySenate Democrats ditch Hyde amendment for first time in decades Senate Democrats unveil remaining spending bills, teeing up clash with Republicans Democratic appropriations bills would increase environmental funding by B 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 CardinDefense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' GOP disappointment with McConnell deal could delay vote 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.