WASHINGTON – The White House press secretary was visibly amused by the suggestion from a network reporter that Russian President Vladimir Putin was snubbing the Trump administration, after months of the mainstream media advancing the Democrats’ narrative that the Russian had been colluding with the Trump team.
During Tuesday’s daily press briefing, CBS News reporter Major Garrett asked: If Putin refused to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his current Russia visit, would President Trump consider his envoy “snubbed by the Russian president?”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer attempted to explain that Tillerson was in Moscow to meet with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to discuss the crisis in Syria. But Garrett pressed on with his insinuation it was a snub, because Putin had met with previous secretaries of state, such as John Kerry.
That’s when Spicer drolly observed, “No, but I would say that there’s a bit of irony” that for all the talk of the Trump transition team and administration having “back channels and direct links” to Russia, for the complaint now to become, “they won’t meet with you.”
Garrett pressed on, saying, “I’m just asking if the president considers it important.”
The press secretary then reiterated his point, remarking: “No, I understand that. But I think it’s interesting that we went from all of these direct links to Russia, to now, are we disappointed that we can’t even get a meeting with them. There’s a bit of irony in your question.”
For some reason, Garrett then lost his cool, heatedly demanding to know if the Syria crisis did not require a meeting with Putin personally.
After some back and forth, Spicer assured him it was not a snub. It was reported a short while later that Putin would meet with Tillerson, although the State Department had yet to confirm that.
Even talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh noted on Tuesday that “we haven’t heard diddly-squat” about any Trump-Russia collusion.
“Did you hear anything about that on Sunday? It may be three days now. Not a whisper. Not a whiff. There’s not even any bzz bzz bzz bzz, not any buzz about this. This is one of the most recent classic definitions of Drive-By Media,” Limbaugh explained.
“They show up, they get everybody all worked up, they intensely focus on one thing and don’t stop pounding it – and then one day, they stop and they move on to something else. What have they moved on to? What they’ve moved on to is Trump and Syria and Trump and North Korea and, ‘Oh, no, Trump’s gonna destroy the world! Oh, my God! Oh, my!'”
It’s not just the major media that doesn’t appear to know what to make of the relationship between Putin and the Trump administration.
Left-wing publications have accused President Trump of being “Putin’s puppet.”
And Democrats have loudly complained for months that the president is so friendly with Putin that his campaign conspired with the Russians during the election.
That’s despite the fact that, as WND has reported, former President Obama’s own former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, as well as former acting CIA Director Michael Morell, have said they have seen no evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian government.
The airstrike on Syria has put Democrats in a bind: If Trump is Putin’s puppet, why is he bombing the Russians’ ally in Syria, perhaps even risking war with Moscow?
Former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., noted an irony in their conundrum, telling WND, “Ordinarily, Democrats love Russia and anything to do with totalitarianism, but being accused of a lack of consistency isn’t their priority.”
She added, “Would that they cared about improving the lot of the American people hurt by decades of Democrats’ progressive policies.”
Indeed, Democrats have been scrambling to make sense of the airstrikes on Syria in light of their perception of a close relationship between Presidents Trump and Putin.
Before the Tomahawk missile strikes, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., accused Trump and his associates of belonging to a “Kremlin clan” only interested in making money.
Waters said in March that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus “can’t continue to try to defend this president, who is entangled with this Kremlin clan of his, while they are all seeking really to get rid of these sanctions that are placed on Russia because all of them are connected to the oil and gas industry.”
“This is a bunch of scumbags. That’s what they are,” is how the congresswoman described the president and his associates.
Waters didn’t know what to make of the president after he ordered the strikes Friday on Syria in retaliation for the deadly and gruesome gassing of his own people on April 4.
In a Saturday tweet, she appeared to cling to the Democrats’ claim the two leaders still had an inappropriately close bond: “Trump has flip flopped & been all over the place on every policy position except his admiration of Putin. I’m not distracted.”
Attacking Russia’s close ally wasn’t enough to convince Waters. She wanted proof, tweeting Monday: “Even as Trump condemned Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, you have never heard him, out of his own mouth, condemn Putin #Trumprussia.”
The top Democrats in the House and Senate appeared similarly confused on how to respond, but that was expressed more by what they did not say than what they did.
Before the strikes, just two weeks ago, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, “I just wonder what the Russians have politically, personally or financially on President Trump, because this is about a national security issue.”
She further wondered: “Why would the President of the United States put Putin on a pedestal and diminish the greatness of America? There’s something wrong with this picture.”
Three weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was declaring, “The American people deserve to know if the investigation into Russia’s interference with our election and the administration’s contact with Russian officials has been compromised by political interference.”
Since the missile strikes, there has been no more talk of collusion from them.
And no praise for President Trump, even though Pelosi and Schumer both praised the strikes.
“Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do,” said Schumer in a statement.
While not mentioning the president, he added, “I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today.”
Pelosi also supported the missile strikes in her statement, saying, “Tonight’s strike in Syria appears to be a proportional response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons.”
But instead of supporting Trump, she warned him that he had better ask permission next time: “If the president intends to escalate the U.S. military’s involvement in Syria, he must to come to Congress for an Authorization for Use of Military Force.”
Pelosi found a new target for her outrage Tuesday.
After Spicer made a slip of the tongue, she demanded he be fired.
During Tuesday’s briefing, while describing the depravity of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using the deadly nerve gas sarin on his own people, Spicer misspoke when he asserted, “You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”
A few minutes later, ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega, likely seeing the gaffe already spreading on social media, said: “I just want to give you an opportunity to clarify something you said that seems to be gaining some traction right now. ‘Hitler didn’t even sink to the level of using chemical weapons.’ What did you mean by that?”
Spicer stumbled a bit, at first stating, “He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” Then perhaps suddenly realizing he had overlooked Hitler’s infamous gas chambers, added:
“There was not, he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that. But I’m saying in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent – into the middle of towns. It was brought – so the use of it – I appreciate the clarification there. That was not the intent.”
The subject was then dropped in the briefing room, as White House reporters were apparently satisfied with the explanation.
But, perhaps aware he had not been as articulate as possible, Spicer later emailed reporters: “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
But that was not good enough for Pelosi.
She demanded Spicer lose his job for “downplaying” the Holocaust.
“Sean Spicer must be fired, and the president must immediately disavow his spokesman’s statements,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Either he is speaking for the president, or the president should have known better than to hire him.”
Despite the fact Spicer had said, “In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” Pelosi insisted “the chief spokesman of this White House is downplaying the horror of the Holocaust.”
As of Tuesday night, Spicer was still the president’s official spokesman.
He told CNN: “Frankly, I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which frankly there is no comparison. For that, I apologize. It was a mistake to do that.”
Spicer said the Holocaust comments were a “distraction” from Trump’s agenda.
“My goal now and then was to stay focused on Assad, and I should have and I’ll continue to make sure I stay in my lane when I talk about that,” Spicer said.