With the world watching his news conference on Monday, President Trump blamed former President Barack Obama for Vladimir Putin’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. “President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted,” Trump said from the G7 summit in Biarritz, France. “They took Crimea during his term. That was not a good thing. It could have been stopped, it could have been stopped with the right, whatever. It could have been stopped, but President Obama was unable to stop it, and it’s too bad.”
It wasn’t the first time Trump has said his predecessor was somehow responsible for the act of aggression that got Russia booted from the G-8, and he’s never been able to come up with anything better than “whatever” in explaining how exactly President Obama was supposed to stop the annexation. All that matters, according to Trump, is that Obama is bad and Putin, even at his most anti-democratic, is incapable of wrongdoing. Just like Trump.
Here’s video of my Qs to Pres. Trump at #G7 moments ago: Why invite Russia to G7 after they meddled in election? Are you concerned that Putin coming to US before 2020 election could politically hurt you? And why keep repeating what many see as a lie about Putin outsmarting Obama? https://t.co/qDJhUPPSov
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 26, 2019
Trump’s anti-Obama screed on Monday came after he was asked about his belief that Putin should be readmitted to the G7 despite showing no remorse for his indiscretions, a cause Trump championed at last year’s G7 in Canada, and again over the weekend in France. As the Washington Post reported on Monday, Trump’s desire to bring Putin back into the fold was far more intense in Biarritz than the president let on publicly, which is saying a lot.
His campaign began on Saturday night, when world leaders met for the first time over dinner. As the Post writes, after beginning cordially, the occasion went “off the rails” when Trump started lobbying on behalf of Putin. His dining partners were not pleased:
“The entire 44-year vision of the G-7 gathering, according to the non-U.S. participants, is to hash out global issues among like-minded democracies. So the discussion quickly turned even more fundamental: whether the leaders should assign any special weight to being a democracy, officials said.
Most of the other participants forcefully believed the answer was yes. Trump believed the answer was no. The pushback against him was delivered so passionately that the U.S. president’s body language changed as one leader after another dismissed his demand, according to a senior official who watched the exchange. He crossed his arms. His stance became more combative.”
Not even Boris Johnson, the new Brexit-happy prime minister of England, was on Trump’s side. The next day, he reportedly gave plaudits to French President Emmanuel Macron for how he diffused the argument over dinner the previous night. “You did very well there last night,” Johnson said, according to the Post. “My God, that was a difficult one.”
It’s not going to get any easier. Trump will host the G7 next year — if he gets his way world leaders will convene at his Doral golf resort in Florida, which definitely doesn’t have bed bugs — and the president seems to have every intention of inviting Putin to attend. “Would I invite him? I would certainly invite him,” he said on Monday. “Whether or not he could come, psychologically? I think that’s a tough thing for him to do. You have a G8 — now it’s a G7 — and you invite the person that was thrown out, really, by President Obama and really because he got outsmarted.”
If Putin does travel to the United States next year for the G7, he would do so just months before the 2020 election, in which the intelligence community has stressed Russia has every intention of interfering. But as we’ve been reminded several times now, any of Putin’s efforts to subvert democracy pale in comparison to the affection Trump holds for his fellow authoritarian. America’s allies are just going to have to deal with it.