National security expert and MSNBC contributor Jeremy Bash summed up Donald Trump’s tweet firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this way Tuesday:
We’re talking about [how] it’s mean, it’s embarrassing—it’s actually just weak. It’s like, gutless. […] Only a wimp does that—someone who doesn’t want to face the consequences of telling someone directly, “Hey, this isn’t working out, I want to make a change.” And I just want to say, our president of the United States is transmitting absolute weakness to everybody around the world. And for someone who, you know, thinks of himself as a strongman, he’s sending exactly the wrong message.
Trump is no doubt a graceless, wobbly, weasel of a man, and everyone knows it. But no one is enjoying it more than Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has grown consistently bolder in flipping a bird at the world in recent weeks.
When Russia was first suspected of poisoning a former Russian spy in the U.K. last week, the Russian Embassy in London thumbed its nose at the world, clarifying in a tweet that Sergei Skripal “was actually a British spy, working for MI6.” Though Skripal was a former Russian spy living in Salisbury, England, there’s no evidence he was currently employed by the British intelligence bureau, MI6. Nor did Russia offer any evidence, because, who cares? They sure don’t.
After Theresa May delivered a speech Monday demanding answers from Russia and promising to retaliate if the Russians couldn’t provide one, Russia went for the jugular:
— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) March 13, 2018
In case anyone wondered what an emboldened Russia would look like in the face of a shrinking U.S. presence on the world stage, here it is. While Putin throws his weight around, Trump’s White House spent an entire briefing Monday avoiding holding Russia accountable for the poisoning even though our one-time close ally Great Britain has already concluded Russia was responsible. Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t even say the word “Russia” for god’s sake.
The only guy in Trump’s administration to issue an appropriate response, Rex Tillerson, got canned because he had the audacity to say that the U.S. had “full confidence” in the U.K.’s assessment, was “outraged” by Russia’s involvement, and agreed that those responsible “must face appropriately serious consequences.”
After axing Tillerson, Trump called U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to sort of echo what his former Sec. of State said.
“President Trump stated the United States stands in solidarity with its closest ally and is ready to provide any assistance the United Kingdom requests for its investigation,” the White House read out said. “The two leaders agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms.”
Wow, Trump stands “ready to provide any assistance” needed in the U.K.’s Russia investigation even as he does everything possible to hobble the Russia investigation here at home?
Meanwhile in Moscow, Putin is laughing so hard, he can barely breathe. In fact,the Russian Foreign Ministry told Russian media that it “does not rule out accusations of Moscow’s complicity in the firing of Tillerson.”
Heh. That might be funny if it weren’t totally plausible. Last week, we had a New Yorker report based on a single-sourced memo generated by Christopher Steele that Putin had vetoed Mitt Romney, Trump’s first choice for Secretary of State, in favor of instead choosing Tillerson, a one-time recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship.
Jane Mayer, who wrote that piece, told NPR that when she reached out to the White House for a response to that accusation, a spokesperson denied that Romney was ever Trump’s first choice. But on the question of whether the White House ever discussed the decision with the Kremlin, Mayer said they never responded to her inquiry.
Apparently, Tillerson wasn’t performing to Putin’s liking.
At this point, if Trump isn’t under Putin’s thumb, it’s incumbent on him to prove it. Because not only is Trump acting like he’s an agent of Russia, Putin’s acting like it too.