When Donald Trump spoke to one of his biggest boosters on Fox News Saturday night, he couldn’t even muster a proper denial about whether he had ever worked for Russia.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I have ever been asked,” Trump responded, brushing back the question of Fox host Jeanine Pirro. Saying no never occurred to him, apparently. His aides would later lament the response, according to the Associated Press.
White House aides expressed regret that the president did not more clearly and forcefully deny being a Russian agent when asked by the usually friendly Fox News host.
They expressed “regret”—really? Is that the best they could do after the nation’s commander in chief declined to deny he’s been working as a Russian asset from inside the Oval Office? Seriously, where are the resignations? Every White House aide is basically tying themselves to a potential Russian spy. But clearly, they had gotten to Trump by the time of his do-over on Monday, when he finally asserted, “I have never worked for Russia.”
Let’s just call it cold comfort that after sleeping on it for two nights, Trump finally settled on what should have been automatic for any and every U.S. president…
Instead, we are left with the knowledge that the actions and contacts of Trump and his associates were so suspicious, the nation’s top law enforcement bureau opened an investigation that would have required somewhere around a million sign-offs to actually initiate. We also know that Trump has sought to bury any actual documentation of his interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The pattern, which we have all gradually grown used to, is so glaring and damning now that it should completely reframe how we view every single Trump political story moving forward until we are provided evidence to the contrary. As former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance noted, we’re in the middle of the U.S. government’s longest shutdown in history, and we’re being led by a man who’s potentially beholden to Putin and his chief foreign policy goal of disrupting the U.S. government.
And by that standard, everything should be re-examined. We pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord—why? We’re pulling out of Syria—why? Trump is suddenly lifting sanctions on Putin-linked Russian oligarchs without any reasonable explanation—why? Trump is choosing to spend all his political capital dividing us over an unpopular border wall rather than making an effort to bring the country together—why?
“He continues to act like someone who’s acting in the best interest of Russia,” former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi told MSNBC Monday. “He’s answering those questions every day through his actions, his decision-making, his demeanor, and those of his closest aides, including Sec. Mnuchin. Look, this is mind-boggling.”
This weekend’s stories changed the burden of proof indefinitely—or at least it should have. The question should no longer be: Are you working for Putin? Rather it should be: Why should we believe you aren’t working for Putin? It’s now incumbent on Donald Trump to justify his every move, rather than the onus falling on his detractors to prove their case against him. It’s that simple.