For the first time since taking office, Donald Trump will be reunited with Vladimir Putin and he’s very excited about it. His advisors, however, are not. They are shaking in their boots at the idea that Trump will go overboard in exuberance and potentially implicate himself, and presumably some of them, in collusion.
While Trump is cutting off media access in many areas, including with a camera and audio blackout at press briefings, for the meeting with Putin, he wants the media to see it all. His advisors are pushing for something much more low-key and even for something that doesn’t involve Trump at all.
Trump and some others within his administration have been pressing for a full bilateral meeting. He’s calling for media access and all the typical protocol associated with such sessions, even as officials within the State Department and National Security Council urge more restraint, according to a current and a former administration official.
Some advisers have recommended that the president instead do either a quick, informal “pull-aside” on the sidelines of the summit, or that the U.S. and Russian delegations hold “strategic stability talks,” which typically don’t involve the presidents. The officials spoke anonymously to discuss private policy discussions.
Source: Associated Press
Trump’s goal for the meeting is particularly troubling. He wants to roll back all the Obama-era sanctions on Russia and would like to partner with them in Syria, despite the fact that Russia is on the wrong side of a rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s brutal, dictatorial regime. Assad, as you may recall, used chemical weapons against his own people.
Those optics aren’t what Trump’s advisors are afraid of, though. They are afraid that Trump will be, well…Trump. A man who has no verbal filter.
There are big risks, though. Trump is known to veer off-script, creating the possibility for a high-stakes diplomatic blunder. In a brief Oval Office meeting with top Russian diplomats last month, Trump revealed highly classified information about an Islamic State group threat to airlines that was relayed to him by Israel, according to a senior administration official. The White House defended the disclosures as “wholly appropriate.”
In other words, it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that Trump will hug Putin and thank him, in front of cameras, for all his help during the election. Remember when Trump met with the Russian ambassador and spy chief in the White House? It was about the happiest we’ve ever seen him.
Hard facts: last April Trump promised Russia’s ambassador a “good deal.” Hacking began. Kislyak asked for an end to sanctions. Trump: *yes*. pic.twitter.com/67dzaKpLeX
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 19, 2017
It’s pretty clear that Trump can’t contain his giddiness over his country crush. That’s bad enough. Imagine how terrified his advisors are at the idea that Trump may one day have to testify in front of Congress or a judge. For the rest of us, though, the meeting could be the moment Trump seals his own fate.
Featured image via Sean Gallup/Getty Images