President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has all the makings of a political disaster.
Millions of Americans believe Putin has some sinister influence over Trump. The Justice Department just indicted a dozen Russian military hackers for meddling in the 2016 election. Commentators and congressmen are demanding that Trump cancel Monday’s sit-down.
And yet the howls of outrage seem to have made Trump only dig in deeper. To some of the president’s allies, the politics of seeing Putin could actually be a positive, at least within Trump’s hard-core base, which polls show has been warming up to the Russian leader and which largely writes off questions about Trump’s Russia ties as fake news.
That attitude was on clear display Saturday on Fox News, when Trump’s top media ally, Sean Hannity — who flew to Helsinki on his private jet last week — made the on-air case for why Trump’s critics are mistaken to believe the canny former KGB man will play Trump for a mark.
“Everyone in the media, they’re getting it all wrong,” Hannity explained. “He is going to be blunt, brutally honest, just like he was at NATO this week.” Hannity cited Trump’s June meeting with Kim Jong Un, which he said “critic after critic” had denounced in advance, but which Hannity cast as a success that prompted a halt in North Korea’s missile tests.
And as for that damning Friday indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller? “The timing to me was dubious,” Hannity said, suggesting that the truly outrageous meddling was that of the Justice Department in Trump’s diplomacy.
Trump also cast the media as the enemy in Sunday tweets as he departed for Helsinki, complaining that no matter how many concessions he might get from Putin — including being “given the great city of Moscow” — he would never win due credit.